A new chapter begins for Catholic Diocese of Madison as students opt for virtual schooling

The Office of Catholic Schools discusses the new virtual high school option for its students, as well as endeavors for the future.
Published: Sep. 6, 2022 at 3:58 AM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - After more than two decades, the Diocese of Madison has opened a new high school for its students. No classrooms or commute, Blessed Carlo Acutis Academy, is a new remote and virtual high school.

“They can take a course for a semester, they can take a course for the whole year, it really depends on the needs of the students,” Michael Lancaster, superintendent of Catholic Schools with Catholic Diocese of Madison, said. “You can really individualize the learning for the student and what that particular student needs.”

With six students enrolled, and counting, the online format has nearly a month of the school year under its belt.

Amid the era of virtual and at-home schooling continued, the Office of Catholic Schools found there were students who proved to be more apt to the online platform.

“We noticed that there were students who really excelled in the online environment, typically students who had learning issues, who needed a quieter environment, less distraction,” says Lancaster.

Lancaster says the community response has been positive as this virtual schooling provides another alternative for students and parents.

“We only have two high schools in the Diocese, they’re both in Dane County, the Dioceses encompasses 11 counties and so this is a way to make a Catholic high school education available to students in those other counties,” says Lancaster.

Therese Milbrath, assistant superintendent of Catholic Schools, Diocese of Madison, says there has been a profound amount of interest from parents with young kids.

“As word gets out we’re going to see numbers grow, that’s our hope, that’s our prayer and I know that when we were doing surveys and asking parents what they were looking for, we had parents with children as young as K4 interested in this for high school,” Milbrath said.

While still early in the inaugural year of the Catholic school, Milbrath says as numbers grow they hope to start offering satellite campuses.

“We are 11 counties, that’s a very large area but depending on where we have pockets of students we may be able to offer a space for students to come in and do their work together,” Milbrath explained. “Then it would still be building that sense of community, that sense of just the socialization aspect that we know is so important for high school students.”

Milbrath goes on to say it would help establish the catholic mission as well. “Of Catholic identity, the mission of our schools, they would be able to go to Mass...what they would get to do at a regular brick-and-mortar Catholic school.”

With 11 counties spread throughout Southcentral and Southwestern Wisconsin, the diocese knows that many parishes no longer have a Catholic school option.

“To embrace this new technology and to really use that as a way to reach out and reach students who might not have another option...to allow that I think is just tremendous,” says Lancaster. “It’s a great model for a 21st century Catholic high school.”

To learn more about Blessed Carlo Acutis Academy, see here.

Blessed Carlo Acutis Academy opens, first virtual high school for Diocese of Madison