The City of Downey is blessed to have five high schools within our 12.5 square miles. Many can name the bigger ones like Downey High and Warren High. But along with Columbus and Calvary Chapel High School, we have a fifth one that is celebrating a new milestone in Downey.
On Monday, Aug. 21, St. Pius X - St. Matthias Academy held a historic groundbreaking ceremony to celebrate the beginning implementation of its new Campus Master Plan.
For more than 50 years, high school students have launched their futures from the campus on Gardendale Street in Downey. The tradition continues today with St. Pius X-St. Matthias Academy (PMA), a co-ed college preparatory high school.
The Downey campus opened in 1953 as a co-educational high school under the name of Pius X High School. St. Matthias High School opened in 1960 as a parish high school near St. Matthias Church in Huntington Park. In 1995, the schools were consolidated as all-girls’ St. Mathias High on Pius X’s Downey campus.
In 2013 the school was dedicated as St. Pius X – St. Matthias Academy a name selected to honor the traditions of both school communities that have been associated with the campus and served the community since 1953. A grand rededication and blessing with the Archbishop of Los Angeles, Rev. Jose Gomez, took place on Aug. 9, 2013. As mayor of Downey at the time, I was proud to see this new transformation begin and was honored to be present that day.
Since August of 2013, there have been many improvements made to the 64-year-old, 15-acre campus including a renovated research computer lab, refurbished Biology/Chemistry/Physics labs, renovated restrooms, painting the exterior and interior of the campus, technology and WiFi infrastructure, rebranded image, logo, school mascot, and messaging.
The school was accredited through June 2020 and developed a strategic plan to guide its future growth, and has achieved a 55% increase in its enrollment since 2010.
The campus will see major facility transformations beginning Fall 2017. Phase one includes the renovation of a campus residence that will be used by Loyola Marymount University’s Partners in Los Angeles Catholic Education (PLACE) Corps program, addition of a softball field with restrooms and bleacher seating; enhancements to the landscaping in front of the school, including a new LED electronic marquee sign; modernization of selected classrooms, staff, and student restrooms; and the construction of a brand new state of the art football/soccer stadium.
The new stadium will include a 9-lane rubberized track, turf athletic football/soccer field, home and visitor bleacher seating for 2,200-plus spectators on each side, the creation of a new ticket booth, student spirit store, visitor restrooms, and the renewal of existing field restrooms, snack bar facilities, and parking (football has returned to PMA and the first game in 21 years will take place on Friday, Aug. 25).
As a board member of PMA, I was honored to celebrate and be part of a historic day, along with Councilmembers Alex Saab and Rick Rodriguez, Mr. Erick Rubalcava the President of PMA, Mr. John Smet who is not only chairman of the board but along with his wife and foundation are benefactors that made this day possible.
Thank you, board members, students and parents, for joining us to celebrate this groundbreaking of the first phase of the PMA Campus Master Plan. As we mark the beginning of construction we affirm the ideals for which our work will stand in advancing the cause of Catholic education in the City of Downey and surrounding communities.
This work will serve the needs of countless students who will pursue their high school journey on these sacred grounds, providing them with a beautiful and innovative learning environment that will allow them to excel in all aspects of the spiritual, academic, and physical realm.
These projects will enhance PMA students, benefit our community, and represent the value of St. Pius X-St. Matthias Academy.
We are grateful for the generous support of a community of benefactors (The Shea Company and Smet Foundation especially), board members, parents, students, alumni and friends for helping us to manifest the value of education in Downey for future generations. Congratulations PMA and we look forward to your continued success on behalf of the youth of our community.
Mario A. Guerra is the former mayor of Downey, Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army and a board member of Pius-Matthias Acedemy. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.