New Catholic high school opens in Lee’s Summit

LEE'S SUMMIT, Mo. -- More than 300 students started their first day of classes Wednesday at a new Catholic high school.

St. Michael the Archangel is the first new high school the diocese of Kansas City and St. Joseph has built in more than 50 years.

"I’m a little nervous about that because back in April we only had about 140 (students)," said the Rev. Richard Rocha, president of the school. "I made a comment that if we get over 300 I will do cartwheels, so I need to start practicing."

The church says Catholics in eastern Jackson County -- Lee's Summit, Independence, and Blue Springs -- didn't have many convenient options for providing their children with a faith-based education.

The new school replaces Archbishop O'Hara High School in south Kansas City, which the diocese closed because of declining enrollment.

175 O'Hara students have made the transfer to St. Michael's.

They've been joined by more than 125 others from different public and private schools, who all received a warm welcome into their new learning environment Wednesday amid cheers and dancing.

"We want our community to replicate God’s kingdom," said Jodie Maddox, the school principal. "Very diverse. Lots of abilities. Lots of different backgrounds. And we knew the St. Mary community, the O'Hara community, brings that to this school. We are a legacy of the commitment to secondary education in our diocese."

St. Michael's offers six learning academies: aviation, computer science, business technology, engineering, health care and the humanities.

The school is setting up a community system, designed to make sure every student is known to others at the school.

More than 350 job seekers applied to work at St. Michael's. Administrators say they've hired the best teachers that the metro area offers.