Officials for a new Catholic school set to start classes in Austin this fall formally opened the school to the community last Wednesday, Sept. 12.

The Chicago Province of the Society of Jesus, and the Archdiocese of Chicago, last week announced the opening of the new Christ The King Jesuit College Preparatory School.

The announcement came during a press conference at Resurrection Parish at Jackson and Laramie, the school’s permanent home starting in the fall of 2009. The location is currently being renovated for the school. In the meantime, the school will set up classes this fall at a location at Washington and Central in Austin.

“The first year the school will be at the old Circle Rock campus on Central and Washington,” said Sonji Cooks, director of admissions for Christ the King Jesuit College Preparatory School.

“The school will house around 125 students in the first year. I am currently going to schools, and holding talks at middle schools about [Christ The King],” Cooks added.

Nearly 200 media, community residents and religious affiliates attended the morning press conference.

Christ The King is the first Catholic school to open in Austin in 85 years.

The school is part of the The Cristo Rey Network, a national association of college-prep Catholic high schools. Its first school opened in Pilsen in 1996. Until now, it was the network’s only school on the West Side.

The Chicago Archdiocese approved the Austin school in July.

“We wanted to not only announce the development of the new school but also celebrate it as well,” said Father Chris Devron, who is overseeing the development of Christ The King. “The community has spoken, and they will now have the chance to see their wish be fulfilled.”

The concept of the faith-based school is to train students for three weeks in several administrative capacities, such as office work, short hand and keyboarding.

The students would then be hired at paid internships with businesses that have partnered with the school. These businesses usually range from law firms to managerial sales.

The money students earn will finance up to 70 percent of their tuition, as well as for operational costs of the school.

The first-year freshmen class of 120 will spend one day out of the week at their jobs. Employers pay schools $27,000 for each job.

The permanent campus, located at 5058 W. Jackson, is being designed by architect John Ronan. Brendan Conroy was hired as the school’s principal and will official start in October. Conroy worked for 14 years as an assistant principal at St. Ignatius college preparatory school. Though the Austin school was started by Jesuits, teachers and staff are not required to be affiliated with the Catholic church, school officials said.

“It is important that the children have the option to attend a private school that is affordable and offers them opportunity to gain work experience,” said State Rep. Lashawn Ford (8th), one of the attendees at last Wednesday’s press conference.

“I myself attended a Catholic high school (Webber), and so did many world-renowned politicians, such as former President Bill Clinton,” Ford added. “Although it does not completely deal with the need for schools in Austin, we are very fortunate the Jesuits have come to Austin to fill a void.”

For more information about Christ The King Jesuit College Preparatory School, call 773/877-2023 or visit