Vacant Armour Blvd. school will allow expanded Catholic education to urban core students

Two Catholic schools will merge and relocate to this closed charter school building at 201 E. Armour.

Two Catholic schools will merge and relocate to this closed charter school building at 201 E. Armour.

Catholic school supporters are optimistic that a move to Armour Boulevard will be just what  they were hoping for – a well-equipped facility where they can expand the number of students they serve in Kansas City’s urban core.

The Bright Futures Fund, which raises money to operate Catholic schools in Kansas City, has announced the purchase of the vacant Derrick Thomas Academy charter school building at 201 E. Armour.

At the beginning of the next school year, the 225 kindergarten through 8th grade students who now attend the Our Lady of Angels and Our Lady of Guadalupe schools will move to the Armour Boulevard location. Within five years, the school hopes to have 625 students including pre-kindergarten.

Catholic school leaders had been looking for a more central location when the Armour school building became available.

“Over the past four years the Bright Futures Fund along with the Catholic Schools Office have been working hard to find a solution to stabilize education in the urban core with a sustainable model. These efforts have been accelerated due to the following factors:  financial need, rising costs of education, and deteriorating buildings,” Bright Futures Director Jeremy Lillig and Catholic Schools Office Superintendent Dan Peters said in an announcement on their website.

Across the country, Catholic schools have been closing, but leaders hope to buck that trend in Kansas City and expand the number of students they serve.

“We have been part of the educational model in Kansas City for 150 years. We want to be innovative and this is how we can do that,”Lillig says.

The Derrick Thomas Academy building almost seems too good to be true. That former charter school opened in 2001. When it closed in 2013, furniture, books and other educational materials were just left behind.

“A million dollars worth of equipment is already there,” Lillig says. The new school has art and science rooms; the old schools did not. And educators are giddy over the playground and Astroturf field.

Lamar Hunt’s Loretto Foundation made the funding available.

The two schools merging into the as-yet-unnamed Armour site have a long tradition in Kansas City. Our Lady of Guadalupe, founded in 1915, is at 2310 Madison on the West Side. Our Lady of the Angels, started in 1910, currently operates at 4232 Mercier in the Volker neighborhood. Mary Delac, current principal of Our Lady of the Angels, will serve as principal of the new merged school on Armour.

Lillig says there are no geographical boundaries for those who will attend the new school, but students must show financial need. The Bright Futures fund provides $1.1 million dollars in scholarships each year.

“There are a lot of kids who need help,” he says.

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