By Maureen Smith
COLUMBUS — Annunciation School has outgrown its physical space so the school community and the Office of Catholic education has started the process of trying to figure out what to do next.
Joni House, principal, Catherine Cook, superintendent of Catholic Schools, Bishop Joseph Kopacz and the pastors of the parishes in the so-called Golden Triangle of Columbus, Starkville and West Point hosted a public gathering at Starkville St. Joseph Parish on Thursday, Sept. 1, to begin the process of gathering community input. A bus runs from St. Joseph to Annunciation every day loaded with both Catholic and non-Catholic students.
More than 100 people attended the session, which ran much like the diocesan listening sessions. Participants were guided through a series of questions about their experience at Annunciation and their level of support for expansion. They also got a chance to voice their concerns.
“The school advisory council has been working within the school community and gathering demographic data to come up with a solution to this dilemma,” said Cook. The school has seen increased enrollment in the past several years so it had to add modular buildings to accommodate the extra students. While this is an acceptable short-term solution, school and diocesan leaders want to plan for the future.
Some people would like to see a larger school built from scratch between Columbus and Starkville. Others would like to see Annunciation expanded, although the current school does not have much room for that.
The next step will be some kind of survey to gather input from Columbus and West Point. Father Channappareddy Basani, pastor of West Point Immaculate Conception, said at the meeting he would support the idea of running a bus from his community to Columbus to add to the student population. He was at the school in the last couple weeks for a pastoral visit.
Cook observed that the families who currently attend Annunciation are very loyal and supportive. House pointed out that the bus from Starkville started when just a couple families decided to work together to make Catholic education a reality for their children, so there is potential for continued growth in the area.
“Whatever we decide to do, the families (at the listening session) want to make sure we continue to have a sense of family and academic excellence and the Christ-like environment we currently have at Annunciation,” said House, adding that she, the bishop and Cook are also committed to that ideal.
By Maureen Smith