byMark Labbe Pilot Staff
MALDEN -- After over 80 years of providing young men with a Catholic education, Malden Catholic High School, a Xaverian Brothers school, is moving forward with plans to open a school for girls in September 2018.
Expected to be operational for the 2018-2019 school year, the school will be distinct from the current school for boys, although both schools will operate under the governance of Malden Catholic.
Lisa Cenca, currently the director of Specialized Learning, will head the school for girls. Brother Thomas Puccio, CFX, will continue to head the boys' school, while Thomas Doherty will remain headmaster of Malden Catholic.
In the beginning, at least, most of the school for girls will occupy a part of the campus that formerly housed the Xaverian Brothers, said Doherty, who, with Cenca, spoke to The Pilot about the upcoming school, May 12.
The brothers moved off the campus around four years ago, however, Doherty continued, so that space will be renovated as well "as well as a small amount of the existing school."
Some facilities, including the gymnasium and the auditorium, will be used by both schools.
For the most part, the two schools will stay separated from each other, although Doherty noted that there is hope "there will be some combined activities, opportunities for the boys and girls to socially interact outside of classroom hours."
"Things like our theater program we think will be very enriched," he said, adding that other extracurricular activities might also see participation from both genders.
The number of combined activities will likely be limited at first, he said, as the girls' school will only be accepting freshmen for its first class. He added that officials are "very confident" that that first class will be at "at least in the 50 to 75" student range.
Yet, Cenca made clear, even with the combined activities, the two schools will be largely distinct from each other.
"We are celebrating single-gender education on both sides," she said.
"We want to make sure everyone realizes these are two separate entities, and we really are making the best school for boys and the best school for girls."
In anticipation of both schools growing over time, Malden Catholc recently purchased a former Viking Seafood plant, located across the street from the campus at 50 Crystal Street.
Doherty said he isn't sure what will happen with the 70,000 square foot building yet, but he's sure that the additional room will be utilized eventually.
"Buildings that are adjacent to you on an acre-and-a-half don't go on sale very often, so when they do, and know you're going to need it, you've got to get it," he said.
Cenca added that "we do hope that we ... outgrow this building (and) that the girls' program can eventually be freestanding."
On becoming the first principal of the school, Cenca said she's "excited."
"This is a complete new venture, so it's really starting from ground zero," she said.
"It's pretty amazing to be able to start with a clean slate and to be able to create this with all the best practices starting from the beginning."
On June 1 and June 7, Malden Catholic will be hosting an information night on the school for 7th grade girls and their families. The events start at 6:00 p.m., and will be held at Malden Catholic High School, located at 99 Crystal Street, Malden. Registration for the information nights can be completed at www.maldencatholic.org/girlsinfonight.