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GROUND TO BE BROKEN FOR FIRST DIOCESAN MIDDLE SCHOOL

Groundbreaking for the first Catholic middle school in the Diocese of Buffalo is planned for 2 p.m. Wednesday at a site next to Niagara Catholic Junior-Senior High School, 520 66th St.

The first new school to be constructed within the diocese since 1967, the middle school will house pupils in grades six through eight. It is scheduled to open in September 2002. The last new school to open in the diocese was SS. Columba-Brigid Montessori School in Buffalo in September 1999.

Kevin Keenan, a spokesman for the diocese, said the construction of the new middle school is part of a reorganization of Catholic schools in Niagara Falls, some of which now house prekindergarten through eighth grades. With the addition of a single middle school, those schools will now uniformly cater to pupils in prekindergarten through fifth grade, while Niagara Catholic Junior-Senior reverts back to a high school.

"The advantage in bringing all the middle school pupils together is that the diocese can focus all of its resources into one building," said Keenan. The building "will be wired for technology, and we'll be able to take advantage of teacher expertise and use some of the facilities at the high school."

The new 12-classroom middle school building will be built on the right side of the junior-senior high school on the site of the old Bishop Duffy Faculty House.

All funding for the $1.5 million construction of the new middle school is being provided by the diocese. The building design is by George Lukaszewicz Architects of Amherst.

Bishop Henry J. Mansell of the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo is scheduled to attend Wednesday's groundbreaking to give the blessing for the new school. Others expected to attend include Bishop Edward M. Grosz, auxiliary bishop of the Buffalo Diocese and episcopal vicar of the Eastern Niagara vicariate; the Rev. Robert S. Hughson, pastor of Prince of Peace Parish and chairman of the Niagara Falls Catholic Schools Network; Judy MacDonald, director of Catholic schools; and Patricia Muscatello, principal of St. John de LaSalle Elementary School and chairwoman of the Board of Principals for Niagara Falls Catholic schools.

e-mail: hmcneil@buffnews.com

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