Last summer, not long after Oscar Santos became head of Cathedral High School, a Catholic prep school in the South End, he met Maura M. Bradley, principal at Mission Grammar School in Roxbury.
As she described how her school begins talking to students about college right from the start, Santos was struck with an idea: The two Catholic schools could work in tandem, creating an academic path that would carry students all the way from preschool to college.
“I thought, ‘This is a golden opportunity,’ ” he said. “As early as kindergarten they are talking to their kids about college.”
On Friday, the schools announced the new partnership, which will eliminate grades 7-8 at Mission and guarantee its students admission to Cathedral, which begins with seventh grade.
The schools will keep their current names and remain independent, but will align coursework, teaching strategies, and expectations of students.
“This is a whole new pathway,” Santos said Friday. “We’ll follow you all the way through college and beyond.”
The schools will join forces next fall, and hope that many Mission students choose to attend Cathedral. Parents and students are excited by the prospect, Bradley said.
“Time and time again I’ve heard ‘Why can’t we have a high school?’ ” Bradley said. “This is really a wonderful option for families.”
Bradley and Santos said the alliance is highly unusual, but holds great promise as a way to provide students a strong support system and prepare them for college from a young age, and Cathedral students will mentor those at Mission, teachers will work together, and the schools will host joint events.
“It will be the same adults sticking with children all the way through,” Bradley said.
Mission, which has 250 students, will use the extra space created by shedding seventh- and eighth-grade classes to enroll more younger students, she said, where demand has been high.
Enrollment at Cathedral, which draws students from well beyond Boston, is expected to increase by about 30 students.
Santos, the former superintendent of Randolph public schools, said Cathedral graduates all go on to college, although many are behind academically when they arrive. About half of them finish college, and Santos said the school has made increasing that number a priority.
Judith Bonheur, 43, of Dorchester, said her seventh-grade son found out the other day about the new alliance and said he was excited to go to Cathedral a year early.
“He’s excited to be in high school,” she said. He will join his older sister, now a junior.
“She loved it from the day she got there,” she said. “She’s never stopped learning.”