W ith $6.25 million in the bank, DeLaSalle Education Center broke ground last week on an expansion and beautification project that is stirring hearts all along Troost Avenue.
The school had been raising funds since 2008 to make real an idea that has been growing in the minds of people like Pat Lantz for at least a decade.
Lantz, who runs the school’s student printing classroom and business, had long been nurturing the idea that DeLaSalle could play a large role in the revitalization of one of Kansas City’s critical community corridors along Troost — and give a better school home to DeLaSalle’s alternative students.
“I grew up in this neighborhood,” said Lantz, 55. “Troost has always been my home.”
He said he resonated with visionaries who were determined “that it be more than a barrier between one economic group and another.”
The school’s existing building sits on Forest Avenue, a block east of Troost at 37th Terrace. The view from Troost for years had been blocked by a blighted landscape of worn shops and a car wash.
In recent years the school has acquired property to build the face of the school toward Troost. By the 2012-2013 school year, DeLaSalle intends to open its gleaming expanded school.
The 1,600-square-foot addition will contain the library, early childhood center, experiential learning classrooms and — of course — a new student printing shop.
The campaign for the expansion persisted despite the failing economy. It has carried on as the school changed from a Kansas City School District contract school to an independent public charter school.
The Hall Family Foundation and the J.E. and L.E. Mabee Foundation of Tulsa were key funders in a wide-ranging campaign to make the new school possible, said Vanessa Van Goethem-Piela, DeLaSalle’s development director.
The school is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, “and this launches us into that next 40 years,” Van Goethem-Piela said. “This will give students a campus they can feel proud about. It’s a campus they deserve.”
When staff and dignitaries began plunging the ceremonial shovels into the dirt, Lantz surveyed the scene, watching the faces of all the students who’d joined the festivities.
“I was thinking those kids are going to drive by here and say, ‘Hey, I was ” Lantz said. “This is going to be great for the here when this started,’ community.”