By LINDA M. LINONIS
and Kalea Hall
Finances will determine whether Cardinal Mooney High School stays on Erie Street or moves to southern Mahoning County.
Dr. Nicholas Wolsonovich, diocesan superintendent of Catholic schools, said a feasibility study, announced Tuesday [Sept. 3], will be conducted to determine whether sufficient financial support exists for a new school building and an endowment fund for scholarships.
Funds for a new school would come from individuals, alumni and the community. He said no plan to seek financial pledges from parishes has been discussed.
The bishop will make the final decision on Mooney’s destiny after the feasibility study is done.
Wolsonovich fielded questions Wednesday about Mooney because Bishop George V. Murry was attending a priests’ convocation and was unavailable.
A professional fundraising company will evaluate financial support for a new Mooney school, Wolsonovich said.
No time frame for the study was set.
The cost of renovations at Cardinal Mooney were estimated at $15 million, he said. Though the building has been deemed safe through air-quality tests conducted by EA Group of Cleveland, the cost of removing and abating the asbestos in the building, where the school has been since 1956, could be millions.
“The cost of renovations and asbestos will be from 50 to 60 percent of the cost of a new school,” Wolsonvich said. He added renovations, and asbestos abatement would “be disruptive” and make it difficult to conduct school.
The $25 million estimated cost of building a new school, that would reflect modern technology and energy efficiency, would appear to be better stewardship of funds, Wolsonovich said.
An enrollment feasibility study, conducted by Meitler Consultants of Milwaukee, revealed that Cardinal Mooney would gain 100 to 150 students if it moved to the suburbs. “Accessibility and attractiveness were factors,” Wolsonovich said.
Among current students surveyed by The Vindicator, sentiment was mixed on whether the school should move.
Kara Monahan, 17, of Brownlee Woods in Youngstown and a senior at Mooney feels her school needs updating, but with the tradition of the current school she is reluctant to see it move.
“I am kind of torn because everyone from Youngstown wants it here, but safety-wise I would say, ‘move,’” Kara said.
However, she also said relocating to another area outside of Youngstown would be difficult for students like her and her sister, 15-year-old Maggie, a sophomore.
“It would be hard to drive to Canfield every day” if the new school is built there, Kara said.
However, Maggie is certain she wants the school to relocate because of all the improvements needed.
Danny Martin, 16, of Boardman and a senior believes the school should stay in its current location.
“We haven’t really had any security problems,” Martin said.
But 15-year-old sophomore Nick Braydich of Struthers said a move is a good idea.
“The school needs a lot of improvements,” Braydich said.
Junior Matthew Daprile, 16, of Poland also believes the school should relocate, even though there has been “a lot of effort” into cleaning the school and making some improvements.
“I just think the area is not really great,” Daprile said.
Youngstown Mayor Charles Sammarone said he’d be sorry to see Mooney leave Youngstown, but not surprised.
“Hopefully this isn’t a final decision, but I don’t know what else there is to study,” he said. “We’ve tried to help anyway we could. The concern was the [condition of the] surrounding neighborhood. We’ve torn down houses and worked to clean it up, but not every house that needs to be demolished can come down immediately” because of the city’s finances.
If Mooney closes it would be another blow to the city’s economy. The downtown U.S. Postal Service mail-processing center, which employs 165, will be eliminated early next year. A Parker Hannifin Corp. foundry on the North Side, that employed 63, closed in March.
“Businesses leave for whatever reason,” Sammarone said. “We do whatever we can to keep them.”
Youngstown mayoral candidate John A. McNally IV, a Democrat, said the city has worked with Mooney to make the area around the school safer, but more is needed.
The city’s population is declining, but “I don’t see how a move to the suburbs will” help increase the number of students attending Mooney, he said.
DeMaine Kitchen, the mayor’s chief of staff/secretary who is running as an independent candidate for mayor, said the city has offered to do anything it can to keep the school.
“That’s a business decision the folks at Mooney are making,” he said. “We hope the diocese would find a new tenant or maintain it if it’s vacant.”
Mooney’s “business model is to go where their clients are,” Kitchen said. “A lot of the alumni no longer live in Youngstown and they’re now influencing this decision.”
Mooney’s 2012-13 enrollment was 563 students in ninth through 12th grades, Wolsonovich said. The 2013-14 enrollment is 505, a loss of 58 students. The formal enrollment count is taken in October.
Tuition at Mooney for members of Catholic parishes is $7,000 annually and for non-members, $7,600. That rate applies to the first student in a family, the second sibling gets a $300 discount and a third, 50 percent off tuition.
Mooney distributes between $400,000 and $500,000 annually in scholarships. Bishop Murry said in Tuesday’s statement that he would want the endowment fund, earmarked for scholarships, to increase from its present $1.5 million to $5 million to offer more scholarships to economically disadvantaged students.
“One of the issues that families face is affording the tuition,” Wolsonovich said.
Contributor: David Skolnick