SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- A follow up to a story Western Mass News first brought you last fall, when Pope Francis Preparatory School first opened its doors in Springfield.

And now a year later they gave Western Mass News an exclusive look at how their innovative architecture is helping students succeed.

It's been nearly a decade since the tornado of 2011 ripped through Springfield, destroying the Cathedral High School.

But architect Paul Viccica told Western Mass News, that tragedy gave them the chance to create a space that helps students thrive.

"The understand is that as education moves from rote learning to problem-solving to critical thinking the old schools aren't the kinds of schools that enable them to do that," Viccica said.

What is now known as Pope Francis Preparatory was designed with that innovation in mind.

Something Head of School, Doctor Paul Harrington said he has already seen benefiting students.

"It has been a transition for our students but an exciting transition. It forced us as educators to put it into practice. We have a very talented group of educators that are embracing the space," Dr. Harrington explained.

He told Western Mass News that every corner of the school is focused on helping the students apply the lessons they are learning in the classroom, to everyday life.

"Everything is a usable space! From the bulletin boards to the whiteboards on the walls. Everything is learning!" Dr. Harrington said.

They even have an entire course that takes the concept of a class pet to the next level.

"We have a course called an aquaculture class where everything is dedicated to this project of raising the tilapia. You're raising the fish, you're taking care of the fish, you're learning about the fish. That experimental learning is important to us. Taking it away from the textbook, that higher-level questioning, and reasoning," Dr. Harrington said.

And Dr. Harrington said that approach is paying off in both test scores and enrollment

"This year we enrolled 103 freshmen, and our goal was 100. So that our largest class and the goal moving forward is to reach the 420 marks which would be 100 in each grade," Dr. Harrington explained.

Copyright 2019 Western Mass News (Meredith Corporation).  All rights reserved.

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