Leaders Preview New Catholic School

Two months ahead of schedule and St. Patrick Catholic High School is ready to open its doors. Several state and local dignitaries joined teachers, students and parents for a ribbon tying ceremony to merge St. John High School and Mercy Cross. Schools that were both severely damaged by Hurricane Katrina.

"The initial idea after Katrina in the education assistance disaster package was that the money would be spent to support displaced students," says Governor Haley Barbour.

Governor Barbour says St. Patrick is the first school to open under the Gulf Opportunity Act. And while he did not attend a private school, he understands the importance of religious based education.

"It is critically important in my opinion that our children get exposed to education that does lead them to understand the difference between right and wrong," Barbour said.

Senator Billy Hewes agrees.

"After the storm, I think all of our leaders, community leaders and political leaders recognize that if we are going to get our communities back, we need to make sure our kids are where they need to be," says Hewes.

Only about ten percent of Mississippi children attend private schools, but those who have say they wouldn't have it any other way.

"I've gone to Catholic schools my whole life, and I'm really glad that I did because I do know right and wrong," says Jordan Perason, a senior at St. Patrick High School.

While Tiffany Hancock's children are too young to attend the high school now, the St. John graduate is already thinking of the future.

"I want my children to be able to express their beliefs in God and come together as a family," Hancock said.

Leaders say there are still some loose ends to tie up at the school. Classes at St. Patrick High School will start at eight o'clock Monday morning.