Frequently Asked Questions

Your questions, answered.

We understand that you may have questions about the unique nature of Canongate. Below we have gathered our most frequently asked questions and objections to help answer these questions. We’d love to have you and your family join us during the school day to experience the uniqueness of Canongate Catholic High School. To schedule a tour, call or email to set up a date and time.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you have to be Catholic to attend Canongate?

We believe that the Catholic intellectual tradition is a gift for all. Thus, an applicant does not have to be a baptized Catholic to be accepted as a student at Canongate. 

As an affiliate member of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Charlotte, we are committed to offering an authentic Catholic education for all of our students. Each of our teachers and staff annually sign an oath of fidelity to uphold by example and instruction the doctrines and authority of the Roman Catholic Church. The teachings and practices of the Roman Catholic Church are open and freely available for all to consider. This means there will be no surprises, no idiosyncratic beliefs or practices, nor any personal agendas shaping the student’s experience. 

All students are expected to participate in the full life of the school, including Daily Mass, morning prayer, theology class, and learning and singing the prayers and songs of the Church. Non-Catholics are not permitted to receive Holy Communion or serve at the altar, but otherwise are expected to show respect and reverence for and during liturgical and other religious activities.

Do you offer STEM courses?

We offer a Science and Mathematics curriculum that goes beyond the typical curricula by uniting faith with reason in order to understand the natural world not only in terms of its measurable aspects, but also in terms of its power to reveal transcendent truths about man and God, all the while fostering a right relationship between mankind and the natural world. The Catholic intellectual tradition has been at the forefront of many scientific advances, and we participate in that heritage by teaching challenging courses in Physics, Biology, Chemistry, Earth and Environmental Science, and Pre-Calculus.

Do you have a sports program?

We currently offer dedicated time for various activities that are designed both for fitness and building community. Our immersion days often include hiking and other outdoor experiences which promote fitness, wonder, and community. Some of our students participate in local off-campus sports such as rowing or travel teams. Our students are eligible to join the Asheville Trailblazers league which offers several travel team options.

Do you offer AP courses?

Advanced Placement courses are designed to accelerate a student’s passage through higher education by preparing the student to take a placement test. Any student who wishes to sit for an AP exam may do so, even without taking an AP course. There is an entire cottage industry dedicated to providing AP exam preparation. We are happy to help any interested students make a wise choice about which program best suits them.

While there are some scenarios in which an AP course may be a good fit for a student, we operate with a different approach to learning. We prefer depth over breadth. We slow the process of learning down in order to stimulate both rigorous study and contemplation of the objects of study within a community of learners. We see no reason to rush young people through the academic system, nor to throw them prematurely into the competitive credential-seeking marketplace. Instead, we choose to provide the experience of learning for the sake of becoming more fully alive. Our students do not just learn about the Great Conversation. They participate in it.

Do you serve adolescents with learning challenges or special needs?

We have served several students over the years with various learning challenges and other special needs. We consider each applicant on a case by case basis in order to determine if we have the expertise and other resources necessary to serve him or her. 

Families sometimes find that what we offer in terms of an authentic Catholic education and community compensates for specialty services we are not able to provide. In such cases, outside expertise may be contracted by the family to address significant special needs.

Are there gaps in education due to the size of the school?

We are a small school, but we have a large faculty. Currently, Canongate employs fourteen teachers, seven of whom possess advanced degrees. In addition, our curriculum provides all of the courses required by the State of North Carolina for high school graduation, as well as additional courses in math, science and the humanities. We also offer courses not always available in a typical public school, including Latin, choir, theater, the visual arts, theology courses and frequent off-campus enrichment experiences. Additionally, our students have the opportunity to hear from guest presenters on a variety of topics.

Can Canongate students participate in dual-enrollment?

Dual-enrollment is available in NC for juniors and seniors who meet the required GPA threshold and receive approval from the principal. Occasionally we have a student whose interests lie beyond our curriculum, and whose schedule allows them to take a dual-enrollment course. Consideration of such requests is on a case-by-case basis and is taken in consultation with the student, parents, and teachers.

Is Canongate Accredited?

We are very committed to providing a high-quality education for our students. Our curriculum is carefully selected to achieve our academic and spiritual mission. Further, our teachers are given opportunities for ongoing professional development and continually challenge themselves to grow both as intellectuals and as educators.

It is also important to keep the following in mind:

  • As an affiliate Catholic school in the Diocese of Charlotte, we are accountable to the Bishop, the Vicar of Education, and the Superintendent of Catholic Schools for what and how we teach.

  • Accreditation for private schools is not required by the state of NC.

  • Colleges do not base student admissions or scholarships on the accreditation status of a high school.

  • Even schools that find it necessary to seek accreditation agree that it is a very time-consuming and costly process that can take valuable time and attention away from the primary task of forming young people intellectually and spiritually.

  • Accreditation is not necessary to achieve, nor does it guarantee, professional excellence in curriculum, teaching methods, or school culture. 

We choose to invest our time and treasure in cultivating the minds and hearts of young people by drawing on the centuries-long Catholic intellectual tradition of education and spiritual formation.

Do you have National Honor Society?

Our entire curriculum and school experience is so challenging and unique that this provides colleges with the evidence they need that our students have succeeded in an academically rigorous and stimulating environment. 

Further, we view academics as a communal, mutually supportive experience of learning, rather than as an individual competitive sport. Hence, we challenge each student to excel to the best of his or her ability, but without publicly recognizing distinctions in academic abilities.

Do you offer band?

At Canongate, instrumental music is not a course but an aspect of what binds us together as a community, shapes our culture, and forms our tradition. We have a tradition of participating in the Scotch-Irish tradition of folk music that belongs to the heritage of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Many of our students play or learn to play guitar and other stringed instruments during their tenure at Canongate, and we gather regularly to make music and sing.

We also provide high-quality vocal training at Canongate through our schola (Latin for “choir”). In addition to the techniques of developing a good singing voice, our students learn the propers of various Mass settings, and often sing Mass for local parishes.

Do you have extra-curricular clubs?

Depending on interest, we provide various extracurricular guilds in which our students can learn or improve skills in various areas such as instrumental music, fiber arts, the visual arts, etc. If you have a specific interest, we are open to considering it!

Is Canongate a safe environment for my child?

Canongate is housed on the campus of St. Barnabas Catholic Church in Arden, NC. The church and school work closely together to mitigate risks and provide a safe environment for our students and staff. Various measures have been taken to increase the security of our campus. In addition, all of our teachers and staff must successfully complete the Diocesan Safe Environment Training program, which includes an initial and regularly updated background checks. 


It seems like other Christian private schools in the area have more to offer...

It is common to assume that “more is better,” however what matters in choosing a school is not quantity, but culture, not options, but the opportunity to flourish, not programs, but the real people teaching, and the students participating in the classes.

Those who choose to come to Canongate find that what they gain is far greater than what they give up. The genius of Canongate is not something that is easily conveyed in words but is best experienced in person. Come spend a day with us. You will know right away whether or not Canongate is a fit for you.

Canongate is too far away...

Our students live within a 30-mile radius of the school. We can connect you with other families in your area to arrange car-pooling and drive-share options. 

Morning drop-off is available up to 30 minutes prior to the first class, and afternoon pick-up is available up to 30 minutes after the last class of the day to accommodate parents who run a shuttle between multiple schools.

Student drivers are permitted to park on campus and thereby relieve their parents of the responsibility of the daily drop-off and pick-up.

My family is not Catholic...

The Catholic intellectual tradition has benefitted almost every culture and society with innumerable tangible and intangible gifts. To give your child the opportunity to participate in this Great Conversation is to bring him or her into the company of many of the intellectual and artistic giants of our heritage. Both Catholics and non-Catholics are enriched by this experience. 

Canongate is too small...

This is an interesting objection. I would like to respond by asking you a question: “too small to accomplish what?”

We are not too small to provide students with a rich, challenging liberal arts education that prepares them for entering higher education or the trades after graduation.

We are not too small to provide young men and women with opportunities for meaningful and lifelong friendships, perhaps including finding a marriage partner!

We are not too small to provide interesting electives, and fun, meaning-filled off-campus experiences that range from hiking to engaging in works of mercy.

We are not too small to provide an authentic Catholic school experience that includes daily Mass, praying the Divine Office, and theology classes.

We are not too small to work individually with students who are struggling academically.

We are not too small to offer students a fine arts curriculum including music, theater, and the visual arts.

We are not too small to provide opportunities for fitness, including daily pick-up soccer games, and a course on self-defense for the young ladies.

Now, what were you saying about Canongate being too small?

Canongate is too hard...

The mark of a great intellectual is the ability to explain complex truths in simple, accessible language. We aim to lead students to such intellectual greatness through an engaging and thought-provoking education. 

We offer this education to any young man or woman who has a desire to learn and is willing to put forth the effort necessary to learn. While this effort does not always result in high marks, it will result in a greater understanding than would be possessed without the effort. Perhaps more significant, this effort always reaps spiritual and intellectual benefits that arise from self-discipline and focused attention on a reality worthy of study.