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Pinellas County Catholic School for Children with Special Needs is Expanding

Pinellas County Catholic School for Children With Special Needs Is Expanding

The faith and educational opportunities are growing at Morning Star School in Pinellas Park.  Administration, donors, diocesan officials and even students put shovels to dirt and donned construction helmets as they broke ground November 2, 2021 on the first phase of expansion for this unique school for exceptional students.

“It’s a day I never thought was going to happen,” said a proud, yet humbled Morning Star Principal Sue Conza.  “We are breaking ground for the Morning Star Achievement Center.”

The 3,500 square foot Achievement Center building comes with a $1.5 million dollar price tag and will house five classrooms, and conference space for faculty. Three of the classrooms are dedicated to the growing high school student population, and the other two classrooms will provide needed space for students to learn career skills and life lessons so they can realize their full potential following graduation.

“This will provide additional support academically, as well as life skills, to help students transition to adulthood,” said Conza. The program will be open to high school graduates with learning challenges up to the age of 22.

Families come from across Tampa Bay to give their children the opportunity to attend Morning Star School. Meagan Moore, a parishioner of Christ the King Parish in Tampa, prays the rosary each morning as she drives across the bridge with her 9-year-old son Evan, to Morning Star School. Evan has Down’s Syndrome and is non-verbal.

“He started in the public schools and then around 3rd grade we brought him to Morning Star, and it has been such a blessing for our lives. He’s been more productive, and he feels like he’s home here.  This is an answered prayer for so many families,” said Moore.

At the groundbreaking, other parents also spoke about how much Morning Star means to them.

“It’s a great place to grow socially and academically,” says Eddie Sanchez, parent of Isabelle who first attended Morning Star in 2016. “Not only do I support the school for my kids, but I need to do it for others.”

While public schools offer parents educational opportunities for children with special needs, the Diocese of St. Petersburg has two Morning Star Schools (the other in Tampa) that integrate faith as part of their weekly activities.

“Our students have religion every day. We go to Mass with Sacred Heart Catholic School on Wednesdays and the kids love Sacred Heart. Sometimes I think our students are closer to God than anybody I know,” added Conza.

“We had a great experience in public school,” adds Moore, “but for our family, we wanted everyone to have a Catholic education.”

This groundbreaking was part of a multiphase campaign, with hopes to add on in the future. As for the possibility of other Morning Star schools in other parts of the region, Diocese of St. Petersburg Superintendent Chris Pastura says, “It’s a dream. We don’t have any concrete plans right now. At the same time all those concrete plans begin with dreams. We continue to have conversations. We continue to think about how we can best serve needs of all the kids in the Diocese of St. Petersburg.”

While the children were lining up to sing for the guests for the groundbreaking, Pastura added, “If you’re worried about the state of our world and the future, come to one of our Morning Star Schools and it will restore your hope and faith in humanity and the good we can do through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

To find out more about the school and the campaign visit www.morningstarschool.org or call 727-544-6036.