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Cardinal Wuerl school opens; enrollment rises

| Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014, 11:02 a.m.
Students make their way to Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School in Cranberry on Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014, the first day of classes in the new school.
James Knox | Trib Total Media
Students make their way to Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School in Cranberry on Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014, the first day of classes in the new school.
Students make their way to Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School in Cranberry on Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014, the first day of classes in the new school.
James Knox | Trib Total Media
Students make their way to Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School in Cranberry on Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014, the first day of classes in the new school.
Bishop David Zubik greeted students as they made their way through the front door of Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School in Cranberry on Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014, the first day of classes in the new school.
James Knox | Trib Total Media
Bishop David Zubik greeted students as they made their way through the front door of Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School in Cranberry on Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014, the first day of classes in the new school.
Students make their way to Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School in Cranberry on Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014, the first day of classes in the new school.
James Knox | Trib Total Media
Students make their way to Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School in Cranberry on Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014, the first day of classes in the new school.
Junior Thad Benson (right) and freshman Shea McTighe make their way to Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School in Cranberry on Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014.
James Knox | Trib Total Media
Junior Thad Benson (right) and freshman Shea McTighe make their way to Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School in Cranberry on Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014.
Bishop David Zubik (center) and the Rev. Charles Bober greet senior Chris Goetz as he made his way through the front door of  Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School in Cranberry school on Tuesday Sept. 2, 2014.
James Knox | Trib Total Media
Bishop David Zubik (center) and the Rev. Charles Bober greet senior Chris Goetz as he made his way through the front door of Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School in Cranberry school on Tuesday Sept. 2, 2014.

Ninth-grader Abby Crum knew school would be different this year at the new Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School in Cranberry.

Yet she did not expect the bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh to greet students on the first day.

“I did not know he was going to be here to say hello to us. It's nice of him to show up,” said Crum, who last year attended St. Alphonsus School in Franklin Park.

The school opened on Tuesday, nearly eight years after the diocese said it would close North Catholic High School's Troy Hill campus, where enrollment declined, and build a high school in rapidly growing Butler County.

“It is historic moment. This school has been a dream for decades,” said Bishop David Zubik, who chatted with students as they arrived. “It brings a great deal of excitement to the one of the fastest growing areas of the commonwealth. We need to be where the people are.”

Physically, there is almost no comparison with the school that was in Troy Hill since 1939, said Chris Goetz, 17, a senior from Shaler.

“The expansion is great. It's just so much more space,” Goetz said.

Named for Cardinal Donald Wuerl, former Pittsburgh bishop and the archbishop of Washington, the school is the first Roman Catholic high school in Butler County. Its tuition is $10,500 a year.

It opens as schools in the Pittsburgh diocese struggle with dwindling attendance.

The diocese is banking on Cranberry's rapid growth to fill the $70 million building that has capacity for 1,000 students. Cranberry's population of about 30,000 is expected to hit 50,000 by 2030.

The Troy Hill campus had about 200 students when it closed in June. The Cranberry campus opened with 286 students.

“The vast majority of the kids who were at Troy Hill came here,” said Rev. Charles Bober, the school's president. “We also have new students,” he said, most of them from northern Allegheny County and southern Butler County.

Students who live within 10 miles are eligible for busing by public school districts, including the Seneca Valley, Pine-Richland, Mars and North Allegheny districts.

The campus contains links to the old one, said the Rev. Chris Donley, the school's chaplain. Some things in the chapel, including images on the wall, stained glass and fonts, were transferred from the Troy Hill chapel.

The school opened without glitches, administrators said.

“So far, school is off to a fabulous start,” said Principal Kellie Abbott.

Rick Wills is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7944 or rwills@tribweb.com.

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