Mooney family ponders move

YOUNGSTOWN – Some alumni expressed mixed feelings, but most shared one opinion: Cardinal Mooney should be moved.

The Catholic high school has been at 2545 Erie St. since its inception in 1956. Now that the building is in need of extensive repairs, the school board is pondering whether to renovate or build anew.

“It’s not a clear-cut issue, and it won’t be a clear-cut decision,” said Mooney president the Rev. Gerald DeLucia, who explained there are many factors to be weighed.

Necessary renovations to the school are estimated at $13 million, with an additional $5 million for a new wellness center. The cost to build a new school would be $25 million, DeLucia said.

The school has about 600 students.

If rebuilt, the new school likely would be located about 6 miles south of the current South Side location, in southernmost Mahoning County closer to the Columbiana County border.

DeLucia said the move would bring population into question, not only for current students but also for potential students living between Poland and Canfield.

“We have quite a reputation in the city, and a lot of children from the city – both Catholic and non-Catholic,” DeLucia said. “The city kids are certainly figured into this. (Youngstown Bishop George Murry) has to weigh all these other factors: our tradition in the city, what it could mean for young people from the targeted area, from the suburban area,” he said.

The question of whether to build or renovate the school was addressed first by parents and alumni more than a year ago, DeLucia said, which spurred the school to begin investigating the best course of action.

A relocation survey was sent in mid-January to all Mooney families as well as parents of students in grades 3 to 7 in area parishes and Catholic elementary schools.

The results of the survey and enrollment projection study will be ready by Feb. 20 and presented to members of the school board, who will then submit their recommendations to the bishop, DeLucia said.

“Some people feel very strongly about the school staying where it is; some feel very strongly about moving to a new school. Either we are going to stay here and have a substantial campaign to renovate our building, or we are going to look at building new,” he said, explaining that the final decision lies with Murry.

“I think it’s a no-brainer,” said 1984 grad Dr. Mark Braydich, whose son is a freshman at Mooney. “The existing facility has served its need. It needs a lot of money to just upgrade and repair it. At some point, you just need to stop fixing the car and just buy a new one,” he said.

Kathy Villella, class of 1969, agreed.

“I think they should move the school. I think the school needs to be on a bigger campus, in a little safer (area). I think a newer school would attract more students and it’s important to build the enrollment at mooney,” she said.

Another alumnus, Jaime Tabor, class of 2007, agreed that the safety of the students should be considered in the decision to relocate.

“The current location … is not exactly in the world’s safest area of Youngstown. Therefore, for the safety of staff, faculty and students, it would be a lot safer to move to where they are talking about moving to,” Tabor said.

Jason Agee, class of 1993, said he left the area shortly after graduation, but still returns for family visits.

“I have no emotional or personnel ties to the school,” he said. “If the school board wants to relocate to a more affluent area, then I wish nothing but their success. Depending on the extent of renovations, the only reason to relocate would be costs or the undesirable location. The real question is what legacy are they trying to preserve and what is their true goal?”

Tabor said that despite safety concerns, her time spent at Mooney was “the best four years of my life, and I wouldn’t trade them for anything.”

However, Tabor said memories of the old location will be bittersweet.

“Nothing lasts forever,” she said.

bhazen@tribtoday.com