LAFAYETTE — Supporters of John Paul the Great Academy have launched a major fundraising initiative to ensure the five-year-old private Catholic school does not have to abandon its Carmel Avenue campus.
Last year, the school moved onto the 40-acre property owned by the De La Salle Christian Brothers as part of a lease-purchase agreement.
A deal to purchase the property fell through last week, leaving the school a short deadline to secure additional funding, said Kevin Roberts, the school’s headmaster.
“We have only until June 30 to remain here because the Christian Brothers have decided not to renew our lease,” Roberts said. “The only way we can stay here is to purchase it.”
Roberts and Brother Timothy Caldwell, provincial of the religious order’s New Orleans/Santa Fe District, which includes Lafayette, would not disclose the asking price.
Caldwell said the order will meet “in a short while to consider a proposal from the school.”
That will likely be sometime next week, said Roberts, who added parents will be notified by Thursday of the outcome.
Meanwhile, the school has taken its funding push to social media and created a Facebook page, as well as an online fundraising tab to generate more support.
On Thursday, Roberts said the school made progress with an investor group that pulled “together several hundred thousand dollars” in a few short days.
“We’re still soliciting assistance not only for the property purchase but for continued operational help which every Catholic school needs,” he said.
In a letter posted on the school’s website, Roberts said the school has been discussing a possible purchase with the religious order for the past two years.
“We entered into the conversation understanding that it was a one-year lease to assist them in attracting the necessary support,” Caldwell said. “We were very close, but it did not materialize and it’s important for the Christian Brothers to continue with its effort to sell the property.”
The religious order has been in Lafayette for nearly 95 years and on the property for 91 years, Caldwell said.
Large oak trees line either side of the driveway that leads to a large, three-story brick building constructed in 1927 where the order once taught religious brothers. The property also has a pond, barn and lots of green space, as well as a residential and office building for the religious order.
Any property purchase will include a clause that enables the brothers’ residence and offices to remain on the property, Caldwell said.
“We would like to continue our presence, though at a small level, but owing to the need for supporting our senior brothers, it’s necessary for us to liquidate this very treasured asset of ours,” Caldwell said.
The school began five years ago in a former restaurant in Carencro near Prejean’s restaurant and quickly outgrew that location.
The school invested about $250,000 in improvements to prepare the campus for students, Roberts said.
About 160 students are enrolled in the school, which serves students in grades Pre-K to 12.
Roberts said he expects the enrollment to grow in the next year since it opened 64 spots to eligible students from low-performing public schools as part of the Louisiana Department of Education’s Louisiana Scholarship Program.
For more information or to assist the school, call (337) 889-5345 or visit: http://www.jpgacademy.org.