Classical High School


Beginning in the fall of 2015, our century-old Catholic school on Grand Rapid’s West Side is doing something new. Sacred Heart Academy is now enrolling incoming 9th grade students for its new, classically-based high school program.

The freshman class will begin each day with Mass and study an integrated classical curriculum including Latin, sacred music, Euclidean geometry, life science, theology, and a team-taught humanities course in which students will discuss the works of Homer, Plato, Cicero, Shakespeare and C.S. Lewis. Following the addition of the 9th grade, the academy will add a grade level each year, until the completion of the K-12 program in 2018-19.

Read on to discover the unique vision and value that this education, rooted in truth, goodness and beauty, will provide.

The Need for a Classical High School

In order to fulfill our mission of providing assistance to the families of our school and parish, to carry to its proper end the process of formation of children which we have already begun, and to engage more fully in a restoration of Catholic culture, it is both fitting and prudent that Sacred Heart Academy begin the work of offering complete high school programming to full-time students.

We undertake this vital work with the strong support and the assurance of continued pastoral guidance from our bishop, His Excellency The Most Reverend David Walkoviak, the superintendent of diocesan schools and the traditional home of Sacred Heart Academy alumni, West Catholic High School.

Over the course of the past year it has become abundantly clear that there is strong demand for classical high school coursework in an authentically Catholic cultural environment. The source of this demand includes not only families currently enrolled in full-time or part-time programs at Sacred Heart Academy, but also area public, charter and private schools.

By offering a beautiful and challenging course of study, by limiting distractions from the work of formation, and by continuing to offer strong sacramental and pastoral support for our high school students, this demand can be met and our mission more perfectly fulfilled. A gradual and deliberate development of the program, beginning by offering 9th grade programming in the 2015-16 school year and working toward graduating our first seniors in the spring of 2019, will ensure that we can maintain a high standard of instruction, a strongly personalized educational experience, and the most prudent use of financial and human resources. Below is a description of how this program will be developed in accordance with our mission.

What Makes Us Different

The present crisis in education hinges on two questions: “Who is responsible for education?” and “What is education for?” At Sacred Heart Academy we believe, in faithfulness to the teaching of the Church, that parents are the first educators of their children and that schools are to minister to their needs. In the face of national policies and plans, which advocate, as C.S. Lewis prophetically describes it, a “vast, overall movement towards… the elimination of every kind of human excellence–moral, cultural, social,” we believe the time is ripe for a return to academically excellent, morally grounded education.

Our vision is unquestionably a bold one. We believe that the purpose of education is to prepare students for the universal vocation to sanctity and for their particular vocations as irreplaceable individuals with unique roles in God’s plan. We measure our work by the work of the Master, who is Love Himself, and so we believe that education begins and ends in love. In order to address the child as a whole, an integer, it is necessary to pursue an integrated course of education. This means that the traditional divisions between the subjects are often forgotten in the pursuit of the truth, that the theological beauty of a triangle may stop us cold in the geometry lesson, that starting the day with Mass is the best preparation for scientific studies, and that a single poem can weave itself through an entire day of study.

High school programming at Sacred Heart Academy will retain clarity of mission and fulfill our vision by:

Teaching a Classical Curriculum in a Diocesan School: Of the hundreds of growing classical schools in America, only a handful are Catholic and among these many are independent with only a dozen operating under the guidance and support of their diocese. The academy is not only the first diocesan classical high school in the state, but when the National Catholic Register reported in August 2014 on the revival of classical education, Sacred Heart was one among only twelve diocesan classical schools in the nation. Fewer than half of those offered a complete K-12 education. The classical curriculum employed by Sacred Heart will make this high school unique not just locally, but nationally.

Following an Integrated Course of Study: We have designed a course of study which would expose students to what Mathew Arnold described as “the best that has been thought and said.” Over the course of four years students will become rooted and grounded in the Western intellectual tradition by engaging with the greatest stories, works of art and philosophical questions the Greco-Roman world and the Christian culture that sprung from its fertile soil produced. By returning to coherent model of core courses and limiting elective courses, we will form graduates who have the twofold bond of common experience and common knowledge.

Focusing on the True, the Good and the Beautiful: Our courses, taught primarily using the Socratic method, encourage active interpersonal engagement throughout the school day. By reading primary texts rather than anthologized snippets, learning science by hands-on experience, and daily engaging the intellect, imagination and will of each student, we engage the full capacity of the student. In every case, primary experience is valued over the distance from the subject created by the widespread use of technology.

Grounding Our Work in the Sacramental Life of the Church: Every school day at Sacred Heart Academy begins with Mass. Weekly time spent in Eucharistic Adoration and frequent opportunity for Reconciliation further assist students in living the full beauty of the Catholic faith. Extracurricular activities celebrate the liturgical year and opportunities for retreat and service are provided to all students.

Remaining Independent of State and Federal Funding: Our complete independence with regard to what we teach and how we do it is protected by our rejection of all state and federal aid. While many nominally private schools compromise on this vital point by accepting assistance with lunch programs, technology purchasing, secular instruction, and more, the leadership of Sacred Heart Academy ensures that we can faithfully pursue our mission by refusing even one penny of state or federal funding.

Transforming the Culture: We believe that a foundation in the trivium subjects of grammar, logic and rhetoric, a sound understanding of history, firm grounding in the faith, and a heart awakened to beauty and wonder will equip our graduates to be catalysts for cultural transformation. An education centered on truth, goodness and beauty prepares students for their individual vocations and for the universal call to sanctity. Growing in grace and understanding, their words and deeds will evangelize our culture.

To learn more about our philosophy of education visit our Vision page.

Course of Study

To learn more about the high school course of study and to see course descriptions for the 9th grade, go here.

Learn more and Enroll

Learn more and Enroll

Enrollment has begun for next year’s 9th, 10th, and 11th grade classes. Find enrollment documents here.

To learn more or to schedule a tour of the academy, please call Barb Menardie, the Operations Officer, at 616-459-0948, or email our Headmaster Sean Maltbie (smaltbie@sacredheartgr.org) or our Provost Zachary Good (zgood@sacredheartgr.org).

More information on the enrollment process is available here.