The former Derrick Thomas Academy charter school has a new role in Catholic education in Kansas City and now a new name.
It’s Our Lady of Hope.
The name was officially introduced Thursday to more than 800 who gathered for the Bright Futures Fund’s School Bell Breakfast at Union Station. Those attending celebrated fundraising efforts for schools in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph.
Our Lady of Hope, at 201 E. Armour Blvd., is the first new urban school to open in Kansas City in over 80 years.
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The Bright Futures Fund, which raises money for schools in the diocese, acquired the Derrick Thomas Academy charter school building in January to be the home of the new Catholic elementary school.
The building was acquired for the diocese with the financial support of Lamar Hunt Jr. and his wife, Rita, through their charity, the Loretto Foundation. The foundation had pledged to match every dollar raised at Thursday’s breakfast. A total of $825,000 was raised for urban schools, more than double the amount raised last year.
Opening the new school this fall means closing two Catholic schools with a long history in Kansas City — Our Lady of the Angels and Our Lady of Guadalupe. Both schools have operated in Kansas City since the early 1900s.
More than 200 students in kindergarten through eighth grade, along with many of the teachers, will start next school year at Our Lady of Hope.
Jeremy Lillig, a spokesman for the Bright Futures Fund, said the diocese plans to add preschool, with the expectation of boosting total enrollment to 625 students within five years.
Mary Delac, currently principal of Our Lady of Angels, will become the principal at Our Lady of Hope.
Since the four-story school building is so large, and given that it’s an inner-city school serving a community of many low-income families, the diocese plans to include an array of community services. Programs such as parenting, job search and financial literacy will be aimed at helping the school’s families and others in the community.
The building has been vacant since 2013, when the charter school — named for the late Kansas City Chiefs linebacker — was closed.
“To continue honoring Thomas and his contributions to literacy in Kansas City, Our Lady of Hope plans to name its library the Derrick Thomas Library,” Lillig said.
And because of donations made to Catholic schools in Kansas City, Lillig said, Our Lady of Hope also plans to name a space in the school after current Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson.