New Holy Cross to become only Catholic high in Kent County

Jarek RutzEducation, Headlines

Holy Cross High School is set to open for the 2025-2026 school year.

Kent County is getting a Catholic high school. 

Holy Cross High will open in fall 2025. It is the only Catholic secondary education institution since Dover’s St. Thomas More Academy closed in 2020 because of the pandemic and low enrollment. 

Supporters include many involved in the old Holy Cross High School that closed down in the 80s, including alumni and people who had kids there, as well as some involved in St. Thomas More, said Tom Fertal.

He left Wilmington’s Saint Mark’s High School to head the new Kent school.

Tom Fertal

Tom Fertal

Fertal said Holy Cross  meets the demand for a Catholic high school downstate. 

Right now, the school is raising funds to establish a strong endowment for tuition assistance and operating costs before Holy Cross opens.

Fertal said organizers hope to start with a $6 million endowment and have raised about 35% of that so far. 

The school also needs to find a building to call home but eventually wants to be able to offer a full high school campus. 

Tuition has not been set yet, but is anticipated to be less than the Catholic high schools in New Castle County, based on the population of Dover and a survey asking what people would be willing to pay.

For example, tuition for the 2024–25 school year is $28,180 for Wilmington’s Ursuline Academy, $20,250 for the Salesianum School and $16,740 for Padua Academy.

Applicants to the school do not have to be Catholic, and Fertal said he hopes there’s interest from all types of families in Delaware. 

“We will welcome all, and people understand that we have a worldview and a theological position that we teach from,” he said. “If they’re okay with that, come on in and welcome home.”

He said the school will teach a “classical Catholic curriculum,” which he describes as what  education used to be. 

Holy Cross High School's emblem.

Holy Cross High School’s emblem.

“It’s a heavy emphasis on writing, on philosophy, on learning how to think and how to craft arguments and how to speak,” he said. “It’s about embracing the great philosophers, the great writers of the past, the great schools of thought, and really teaching kids how to delve in and to think.”

Instead of going broad, he said students can expect to go much deeper with some of the great works, and then use the learning to really dive into themes. 

Classical Catholic education has a lot of common themes through subject areas.  

“You might be studying ancient civilizations in history and in your art class, we’re looking at ancient civilizations artwork,” Fertal said, “and then you’re studying the Latin which corresponds to the ancient philosophers and the Socratic method. 

“So you have unity amongst the disciplines wherever possible, as opposed to a lot of education, which is seven or eight periods that are totally separate from one another, with no crossover.”

Holy Cross will start serving grades nine and 10 and then expand to a four-year school, grades nine  to 12.

Fertal hopes to launch the 2025-2026 school year with about 45 students. 

He said a handful of students travel from Dover to New Castle County to attend a Catholic high school, but that’s unrealistic for most people because of transportation challenges. 

“There are a lot of people whose Catholic school education stops at grade eight, so there’s definitely a need there within the Catholic community,” he said.

Having a Catholic high  can help businesses recruit workers to Kent County if they’re looking at private school options. 

The school website isn’t yet fleshed out, but will be beefed up in coming months with information about Holy Cross.

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