- Associated Press - Saturday, January 30, 2016

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - The Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph is opening an urban school for the first time in more than 70 years.

Bright Futures Fund, which raises money for schools in the diocese, is acquiring the Derrick Thomas Academy charter school building as the future home of a new Catholic elementary school.

Derrick Thomas Academy, which opened in 2001, has been vacant since 2013 when the University of Missouri-Kansas City, which sponsored the school, declined to renew its charter. The 90,000-square-foot school, named for the late Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Derrick Thomas, owed millions in unpaid bills when it was shuttered.

A name for the new school hasn’t been chosen.

Officials told The Kansas City Star (http://bit.ly/1WTo1ow ) that the plan also calls for closing two Catholic schools - Our Lady of the Angels and Our Lady of Guadalupe. Both schools have operated in Kansas City since the early 1900s.

Bishop James Vann Johnston said the decision to relocate two of its schools closer to the east side of the urban core is a sign of the diocese’s “commitment to the core of the city.”

“It means we will be able to provide broader opportunities for children in this city for a quality Catholic education,” said Johnston, who was installed in Kansas City in November.

Teachers and more than 200 students in kindergarten through eighth grade will move at the beginning of the next school year into the Derrick Thomas building.

The idea for Bright Futures to acquire the building for the diocese arose from a retreat for the funding arm’s board of directors where members discussed challenges with aging school buildings.

“I began looking around to see what I could find, somewhere we could create a new vision,” said Lamar Hunt Jr., a member of the Bright Futures board. He said the four-story school building is so large it will allow the diocese to include community services such as parenting and financial literacy help for the school’s families and others in the community.

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Information from: The Kansas City Star, http://www.kcstar.com

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