Wednesday, May 25, 2016

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Unique High School for Special-Needs Students Offers Catholic Education, Plans to Open This Fall

Updated 2/26/25 at 11:21 a.m. to include comments from the Diocese of Lansing and a representative of NAPCIS.

After years of searching for the right location, developers of the first high school in the U.S. offering a Catholic education exclusively for students with special needs, Veritas Christi Catholic High School, have finally found a suitable building and campus in Michigan, and hope to begin classes in their new facility this fall.

“Our goal is to create a loving, peaceful, Christ-centered environment for these special children of God; a place where they can engage fully in the process of learning without having to worry all the time about being teased and taunted and harassed for their disabilities,” said Richard Nye, a co-founder of Veritas Christi and president of the board, in a press statement this week.

Veritas Christi is an independent school in the Diocese of Lansing, Mich., and is a member school of the National Association of Private Catholic and Independent Schools (NAPCIS), though not accredited by the organization according to a NAPCIS official. Deacon John M. Cameron, JCL, chancellor of the Diocese of Lansing, told the Newman Society that Bishop Earl Boyea of Lansing "has not consented for [Veritas Christi] to use the title of 'Catholic school.'"

Veritas Christi has been offering classes online since 2011, but Nye told The Cardinal Newman Society that his search for a brick-and-mortar location finally ended four months ago. Nye secured an agreement to lease one of the buildings of a former Catholic boarding school for boys that closed about 16 months ago. The entire facility has 10 buildings, plus athletic fields and a swimming pool, and sits on around 60 acres of land in the greater Ann Arbor, Mich., area.

Nye told the Newman Society that many of the best schools for students with special needs across the country are boarding schools, and that turning Veritas Christi into a boarding school is “really our long-term goal.” But right now, Nye and his associates who are working to make Veritas Christi a reality have more immediate challenges to tackle.

“We have our building, but now we need to raise at least the first year’s rent— $100,000 — by April 30 so we can start preparing for the upcoming 2016-2017 school year,” he said.

Nye admitted that the goal of opening this coming fall is an “ambitious” one, but he said “it can be done,” and he anticipates having “a line out the door and around the corner” for admittance.

“We would have to evaluate how many students we’d be able to take in that first year” considering the staff and resources available, and the needs of students, he said. Nye told the Newman Society that admittance to Veritas Christi would be on a case-by-case basis because he wants to ensure faculty and staff will be able to meet the needs of a student once admitted.

While there are some high schools offering a Catholic education that specialize in specific special needs, Veritas Christi plans to admit students with all 13 different categories of special needs disabilities.

These students will have “a Catholic teacher in the classroom that’s certified in special education, with an aide, and a class size between eight and 10 students,” said Nye

Nye said he gets calls from Catholic families all over the United States seeking information about the school who are willing to move to Michigan to enroll their special-needs child.

“Catholic parents trying to educate their special-needs children need the Church now more than ever. Unfortunately, there are very few options available to them because the Church has been painfully slow to respond to this obvious need,” said Lori and Eric Williams of Metamora, Mich., the parents of two children with special needs, in Veritas Christi’s press statement. “Fortunately, Veritas Christi exists to continue the work of Christ on behalf of these special children of God.”

Nye said that he has already been in contact with Catholic high schools in the area, and intends to work with students and staff at these schools to develop opportunities for social interaction with Veritas Christi students.

And Nye noted that while Veritas Christi’s niche will be catering to students with special needs, the school will also “provide students with the absolute best Catholic education anywhere.” Students will also receive assistance with pursing college or entering the job market. Nye added that the school is “vigorously orthodox” and that administrators are “very, very protective of our Catholic identity.”

Catholic Education Daily is an online publication of The Cardinal Newman Society. Click here for email updates and free online membership with The Cardinal Newman Society.

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