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School Needs a New Home

Lease running out for De La Salle North Catholic High School

5/22/2018, 5:39 p.m.
De La Salle North Catholic High School is inviting community members to help in the search for a new school ...
Students fill the halls at De La Salle North Catholic High School. The faith-based, college prep school is losing its lease for a building that it has called home for 11 years, the former Kenton Elementary school in north Portland, and has launched a search for a new home. Photo courtesy De La Salle North Catholic High School

De La Salle North Catholic High School is inviting community members to help in the search for a new school building.

The faith-based, college prep school, one of the most diverse in all of Oregon with 31 percent of the students being black and 41 percent Hispanic, will not be able to renew its lease for a building that it has called home for 11 years, the former Kenton Elementary school at 7528 N. Fenwick Ave.

Built in 1913, the school is owned by Portland Public Schools and its current $440,000 annual lease to De La Salle is set to expire in June 2021. School District officials told the Portland Observer on Friday they have no specific plan for how the school site would be used in the future, but say recent events have demonstrated a need for additional facilities to house school district programs in a way that serves students best.

“We are disappointed that we cannot stay in our current building; however, the expiration of the lease provides us the opportunity to find a new location to continue to offer our transformative education model,” said Patti O’Mara, chair of the De La Salle North Catholic Board of Trustees. “The highly competitive Portland real estate market makes this a challenge, but with the help of the community, we are confident we will find a new home.”

De La Salle North Catholic is sponsored by the Christian Brothers and is a part of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Portland/Western Oregon. The school is known for its rigorous academics coupled with exposure to real-world work opportunities. On average, 98 percent of the school’s graduating seniors earn acceptance to college. Most recently, 100 percent of the 51 students in the class of 2017 were accepted to college and were awarded $3.8 million in scholarship funding.

Students at the school attend class four days per week and work for a local company one day each week as part of the Corporate Work Study Program that provides work experience, business contacts and helps offset the cost to educate students.

Donations from individuals and foundations cover more than 40 percent of the school’s operational budget. Tuition and support from the Christian Brothers make up the rest. Family contributions range from $120 to $2,995 per year based on financial need.

“We don’t turn away any capable or interested student because they cannot afford our modest tuition,” O’Mara said.

De La Salle North was the first school to replicate the innovative Corporate Work Study Program pioneered by Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Chicago. The school was founded to provide this unique educational opportunity to families who would not be able to afford a private, college-preparatory education.

“Our goal is to develop tomorrow’s community leaders by making high-quality education accessible to motivated young people in a learning environment that values cultural, spiritual and ethnic diversity,” O’Mara said.

The school has been looking for a new location for two years. A committee of community supporters will engage in the search and explore future locations. The team is concentrating its efforts on finding a 55,000-square-foot building or a former school in the Portland area that could be retrofitted. It needs to be located in a place with access to public transportation because its students have a work-study job to get to every week.

“Our vision for the future is to secure a permanent location to transform the educational experience of the students we serve. A home of our own will give our students and staff a sense of pride, strengthen our community, and inspire past, current and future students of De La Salle to build fulfilling lives that advance the common good,” added O’Mara.