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New high school plans open house, reception for families

Ozark Catholic Academy, to open fall 2018, will host an open house Oct. 15

Published: September 22, 2017   
Alesia Schaefer
John Rocha, founding head of school for the new Ozark Catholic Academy (standing), speaks with Susan Thornton, business manager for the school, in an office already established in their location on the campus of St. Joseph Church in Tontitown.

For lifelong parishioner Edith Pianalto Martin, the idea of opening the first Catholic high school at her home parish is nostalgic, but also a step toward the future. 

“Hearing that the school was going to locate here, brought back some memories for me of when I went to school there,” Martin said, who attended school at St. Joseph in Tontitown from 1968-1974, from the first through the sixth grade. “It felt great and brought me back to what it was like when I was there.”

Ozark Catholic Academy, at St. Joseph Church in the Father Pietro Bandini Parish Education Center, will open in the fall of 2018.

“I think having a school and young people on campus will bring life back to the parish,” said Martin, who still attends St. Joseph Church along with two of her six siblings. 

Founding committee member Ryan James, a parishioner of St. Vincent de Paul Church in Rogers, believes the location is also ideal for OCA.

“The centrality of the location will excellently serve students from Bella Vista to Siloam Springs to Prairie Grove and all of the towns in between,” James said.

“The location of OCA in Tontitown is nearly equidistant from our two area Catholic middle schools: St. Joseph School in Fayetteville (14 miles) and St. Vincent School in Rogers (16 miles),” James added.

Given the growth in the area, James, who is also president of the parish council at St. Vincent de Paul, said that the establishment of OCA will fill a need that many have requested as they have moved to the area.

“We know that Northwest Arkansas is currently ranked as the 105th most populous ‘metro’ area in the U.S. -- and growing quickly,” James said. “That makes NWA the largest metro statistical area in the U.S. without a Catholic high school.”

To prepare for its opening, the admissions team and founding committee members of OCA will be hosting admission receptions for prospective students in the coming months.

An open house with tours of the facility, a barbecue and a short presentation will be held at St. Joseph Church 1-3 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 15.

“I am grateful that the heart of Catholicism in northwest Arkansas can be found beating strong in Tontitown,” said John Rocha, founding head of school for the new OCA, regarding the location of the school at St. Joseph Church.

“As the Catholic community continues to grow and mature in northwest Arkansas, we are thankful for the parishioners of St. Joseph for answering the call of St. John Paul II for the new evangelization and for helping us begin the journey of Ozark Catholic Academy in the tradition of Father Bandini and the parish founders,” he added.

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