San Antonio’s oldest boys school plans to break ground on a new convocation center sometime in June. Central Catholic High School has raised $8.9 million for the 40,000-square-foot facility that will include a gym, weight room, locker rooms, chapel, and meditation garden.
Founded in 1852, Central Catholic has made few significant updates to its historic campus since it moved to its North St. Mary's Street location in 1932, said Jason Longoria, the school's director of advancement. The biggest change since the original school building’s construction in the '30s was the addition of the Elizondo Library Center, dedicated in late 2013.
“Before that, the biggest additions have been [air conditioning] units, those big ones, but that happened in the 1980s, and that’s been about it,” Longoria said Thursday.
Donations from the alumni network, which counts 9,000 living alumni from six generations among its ranks, are funding the convocation center construction, Longoria said. The school has about $2 million left to raise before reaching its final funding goal for the convocation center, but won't delay construction as a result, Central Catholic President Paul Garro said.
"We talk to [students] all the time about excellence academically, excellence on the athletic field, excellence in JROTC," Garro said. "... Our facilities have lagged behind in being excellent, so finally we are going to try to have everything be of the highest standard."
The school still needs to choose a name for the new building. Garro said that he hopes to name the convocation center after former Central Catholic President Father Joseph Tarrillion but still needs to finalize details with a major donor before deciding on a name.
Plans for the center have been in the works since the mid-2000s, Longoria said, when a capital campaign first began to fund the convocation center and the library resource center. Central Catholic initially held a groundbreaking for the convocation center in mid-2011 but ended up delaying its construction until after the library resource center was built.
Phase one, which was initially slated to be the convocation center, became phase two when priorities shifted, Longoria said.
“The needs of the school dictated we needed phase two to be phase one,” he told the Rivard Report. “We needed stuff for the boys to grow into their education. The convocation center was put on hold and so now we are at this point where we are wrapping up the second phase.”
Central Catholic broke ground on the Michael David Elizondo Library Resource Center in mid-2012. It added eight new classrooms to the campus.
The convocation center, which likely will be completed in time for the first day of school in Fall 2019, will increase the current gym seating from 400 to 1,200 seats, Longoria said. It will also include locker rooms for each athletics team, a wellness and fitness center, and a chapel named for the founder of the Marianist Sisters, Mother Adèle de Batz de Trenquelléon.
The new convocation center will be located just north of Central Catholic's football stadium, between Atlanta and Wilmington avenues.
Across the nation, Catholic school enrollment has decreased since the 1960s, according to a report from the National Catholic Educational Association. In the last 10 years, 1,026 Catholic schools have closed nationwide, and student enrollment has declined by nearly 20 percent.
Central Catholic, however, has seen the inverse: From 2014 to 2018, enrollment increased by about 18 percent, according to Longoria. Central Catholic officials touted the addition of the Elizondo Center as a way for the school to increase enrollment, which is just less than 600 students.