Austin Catholic Academy opens in northern Macomb

By: Robin Ruehlen | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published September 7, 2011

 Teacher Jennifer Linville talks to students in her biology class. The students were using microscopes to examine pond water.

Teacher Jennifer Linville talks to students in her biology class. The students were using microscopes to examine pond water.

Photo by Erin Sanchez

RAY TOWNSHIP — Although it’s just 10 days into the first school year for brand-new Austin Catholic Academy, students are already singing its praises.

“My parents made the decision for me to come here, but I’m glad I did,” said 14-year old Roarke Saock of Macomb Township. “It’s really fun, and the people and teachers are really nice.”

Austin, the first co-ed Catholic preparatory high school in Macomb County, opened Aug. 22 with its first freshman class. The school is located at 24125 26 Mile Road in Ray Township, located behind what was formerly the Seifert Building.

School President Leonard Brillati said the Augustinian school, which built its curriculum and learning approach based on the teachings of St. Augustine, fills a much-needed niche for Macomb families who desire Catholic education, but would like siblings to attend the same school.

“We are college prep, faith-based, and we have the best curriculum in the area,” Brillati said.

Students must complete four years of theology, English, math, science and social studies, as well as two years of a foreign language (Latin or Spanish). Daily Mass attendance is mandatory. As the school continues to grow, Brillati said, athletics and fine arts through New Haven Public Schools, as well as after-school club activities will be added to its curriculum. Busing is not available at this time.

“So far, it’s been fabulous,” Brillati said of the first two weeks of school.

“The students are really bonding together, and with the small class size, the student-teacher ratio is 9-to-1. There can be a lot of attention to detail and individual attention for the students.”

At $6,750 per year plus a $200 registration fee, tuition is “substantially less” than other Catholic high schools in the area, he adds.

Sponsored by St. Isidore, St. John Vianney, St. Lawrence and St. Therese of Lisieux parishes, the academy was originally slated to be a donor-funded $30 million facility on 23 Mile Road west of North Avenue with the capacity to house 800 students. However, those plans were put on hold when the economy took a turn for the worse several years ago, and the school’s board of directors is instead leasing the current building from New Haven schools.

Headmaster Father David Brecht said Austin Catholic Academy is dedicated to a more intense focus on Catholic formation than is traditional in other schools.

“The development of the Catholic person is our primary task. We have Mass every day, which is mandatory, and we make the sacrament of reconciliation readily available to our students, rather than just once or twice a year,” he said. “Our academic program is very traditional and intense.”

Students take seven subjects per semester, with block scheduling of three 100-minute periods per day and one 45-minute period. Brecht said this allows students to focus on three core subjects per day, rather than six or seven that would occur with traditional time periods.

“Our real focus is on Christian community, on spending ourselves of one another,” Brecht said.

For more information on Austin Catholic Academy, visit www.austincatholicacademy.org or call (586) 749-7400. Interested students must take the Archdiocesan High School entrance exam.