In just a few months, this building in a Concord business park will become De La Salle Academy, welcoming fifth- and six-graders.
DE LA SALLE HIGH SCHOOL/ COURTESY photo
De La Salle Academy offers new
opportunity for low-income families
De La Salle Academy, a middle school dedicated to providing a high-quality Catholic education to students from low-income family, will open this fall in Concord. It will operate as a division of De La Salle High School, which celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2015.
The academy's first five years are funded — at $1 million a year — by developer Ken Hofmann. Each student's tuition is covered, although each family will pay a participation fee based on a sliding scale. Income is one of the factors in admission. Eligibility is based on family income. For example, a student in a family of four earning $44,177 would be eligible.
Hofmann, a supporter of De La Salle High School for three decades, wanted to make a gift to elementary education, said Mark DeMarco, president of De La Salle High School. Catholic schools held his attention. "He believes they help the poor, give them an education and break the cycle of poverty," DeMarco said.
De La Salle Academy, which will be housed in a building Hofmann owns in a Concord business park, is based on the Nativity Miguel model. Fifty are operating currently in low-income neighborhoods throughout the country, including the Tenderloin in San Francisco.
"These schools tended to struggle from donor fatigue and too many resources needed to be provided at the site," DeMarco said. Hofmann's gift provides the financial stability; De La Salle High School will provide financial services. The schools' finances will be separate, DeMarco said.
Marilyn Paquette, who has taught in a successful Nativity Miguel model school in Providence, Rhode Island, has been named principal. The graduate of Saint Mary's College currently serves as dean of women at Justin-Siena High School in Napa, and will start in her new post on July 1.
After meetings with Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, and schools Superintendent Sister Barbara Bray, SNJM, DeMarco invited pastors and principals in the area to hear about the school.
"We're going to serve the poorest of poor," De Marco said. De La Salle Academy will not be taking away students from neighboring Catholic schools, he said. The academy has been talking with parents in Concord's Monument Corridor, and of parents of boys who attend activities at the Community Youth Center, a recreational program in Concord funded by Hofmann.
Participation in the school will require commitment from parents and students.
What the academy students won't be doing is spending a lot of time on the De La Salle campus.
"We want to keep high school as something for them to look forward to," DeMarco said.
They will see De La Salle, however, in mentoring and tutoring from high school students.
Participation in the academy is not a guarantee of admission to the high school.
The first classes of fifth- and sixth-graders — 15 apiece — are expected to start classes in August. A grade will be added each year, until it covers the full fifth- through eighth-grade spectrum. Applications are available on the De La Salle High School website (www.dlshs.org).
De La Salle Academy won't be the only tenant in that office building that's been renovated to become a school. DeMarco said Hofmann plans to move his office there. What better way to watch an idea come to life.
"At 91, he goes to work every day," DeMarco said.
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