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Enrollment surge prompts need for expansion of Berks Catholic High School

School sets goals of raising $9 million, starting construction in May 2017

READING, Pa. - The declining enrollment of students in the Allentown Diocese helped bring about the merger of Berks County's two Catholic high schools in 2011.

Four years later, the combination of Holy Name and Central Catholic, now known as Berks Catholic High School, is experiencing "surging enrollment growth," according to officials, creating the need for an expansion of the school on East Wyomissing Boulevard in Reading.

The school has enrolled 100 additional students over the past five years, and it expects to add another 100 over the next five to seven years, according to Berks Catholic's principal, Tony Balistrere.

"Due to our surging enrollment growth, we have created four new, temporary learning classrooms throughout the building -- two in the library, one that houses a current English classroom and one that houses a current English classroom," Balistrere said. "We have also created two spaces in the lower level, one that houses a current Spanish classroom and one that houses another history classroom."

Berks Catholic is proposing to build a learning center that would provide two additional classrooms on the first floor in large, open "21st century learning space," and six new classrooms on the second floor, as well as open space outfitted for future classroom expansion, if needed, officials said.

The new building would also add a balcony to the school's existing auditorium, increasing the seating capacity from 786 seats to approximately 1,145, and expand the crowded cafeteria, officials said.

Berks Catholic hopes to begin construction in May 2017, and to help pay for it, the school has launched a $9 million fundraising campaign.

"Generating over $9 million over the next three years requires each of us to look into our heart, as those who have gone before us, to realize that, to a great extent, it is through Berks Catholic High School, that our Saints' faith blossoms and grows, and our church gains strength," Balistrere said.

The 2011 merger of Central Catholic and Holy Name brought about the closure of Central's building on Hill Road in Reading. It remains empty.

The 257 students moved across town to Holy Name's building, which was given the new name of Berks Catholic, and joined that school's 453 students.

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