The Boston Archdiocese is launching its first brand new Catholic school in more than half a century. Lumen Verum, which is Latin for “true light,” will combine virtual learning and in-person experiences into what officials at the archdiocese call a “blended learning” experience. There will be no school building and no central, physical classroom.
“There’s literally no other blended learning Catholic school in the country,” said Thomas Carroll, Superintendent for Schools for the Archdiocese of Boston “It’s different than all the other schools. If people want a more conventional bricks and mortar school we got a hundred of those…but we wanted to create something that didn’t exist.”
The school will launch this fall with about 25 students across Grades 6 through 8. Two co-principles will oversee five teachers and two campus ministers. Carroll said the plan is to add grades 9 through 12 in subsequent years and eventually serve 350-400 students.
Virtual classes will be conducted four days a week from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. and include a mix of lectures, curated digital content, and virtual guest speakers from across the world, including some Catholic university professors who are on sabbatical.
“We're trying to mix it up in a way to make it a lot more interesting to make information more sticky, more memorable for kids,” said Carroll. “So, we're doing a lot more focus on Socratic style and small group discussion.”
In-person days will be held each Wednesday and Saturday, with the weekend sessions being optional. Carroll said that in-person days will include everything from visits to historic sights to excursions to local beaches and hiking trails.
“It’s a blend of both,” said Carroll. “All of the advantages of technology but at the same time not forgetting that an important purpose of school is for kids to make friends, learn how to interact with each other and learn from those relationships."
Carroll said this unique approach will not be for everyone, but he believes there are those who will find value in the model, including families that have been homeschooling, those interested in a Catholic school who do not live near one, and people looking for a more personalized schooling experience.
“It does take an open mind to be willing to consider something that is new and novel,” he said. “But for people who are looking for a school that is faithful and for a school that, I think, will be indisputably intellectually dazzling and that will be much more personalized … that's attractive to some people.”
Carroll said there will be no entrance exam and students do not have to be Catholic to attend. Tuition is set at around $15,000 a year, about $5,000 less than the typical area Catholic school. Scholarships and financial aid will be available. Carroll said students will be enrolled, essentially, on a first come first serve basis.
New private schools, like Lumen Verum Academy, must be approved by the local school committee, according to Massachusetts state law. With no physical location, Lumen Verum is seeking approval in Braintree, where the Archdiocese is headquartered. Last week, the archdiocese went before the education subcommittee of the Braintree School Committee, which recommended approval.
"It's a footprint that in some ways has been used before by the archdiocese,” said Thomas Devin, Chairperson of the Briantree School Committee, “But other things are kind of revolutionary.”
Devin said he found the plan that the archdiocese presented to be particularly well-thought through and thorough.
“I was impressed with the fact that they were they were professional without being aggressive,” he said.
Next, the Archdiocese will come before the full school committee on June 24 for the first of two hearings before a vote on approval.
This comes as a number of Massachusetts largest public school districts are asking the state to review their own plans to open all-virtual schools for students who want to learn remotely next fall.
Boston, Worcester and Natick are among the 13 districts that have requested evaluations to open their own online school next September.