May 24, 2012 05:19 PM

John Paul the Great Academy, a 5-year-old Catholic school that agreed this week to take in 64 voucher students from public schools, will be booted from its north Lafayette campus by June 30 if it can't come up with the roughly $1 million needed to keep the school open. Just days after John Paul the Great Academy excitedly jumped on board with the statewide voucher program and announced plans to take in 64 students from low-performing public schools next school year, the Catholic school is desperately trying to raise almost $1 million to avoid being booted from its campus.

John Paul Academy Headmaster Kevin Roberts says the school, currently housed at the De La Salle Christian Brothers campus on Carmel Drive, had long-planned to purchase the property on which it operates, but the benefactor who had committed to making the purchase backed out a day before the deal was supposed to close on May 16. The Christian Brothers have notified the school that it cannot remain on the property beyond June 30.

It was on May 17 that the school's board voted to participate in the statewide voucher program, which funnels state dollars to private schools that take in students from low-performing public schools who meet certain income requirements.

"If we don't succeed on staying on the property, we'll find another location," Roberts says. "Enrollment is strong, even without the voucher students. We have a lot of support and a lot of families who want to see this school open."

KATC, in a Tuesday report on the voucher program, referred to John Paul the Great as one of the highest performing schools in the parish, though private schools are not subject to the accountability system of public schools and are not required to make public any data tied to the achievement of nonvoucher students.

"We are selective, selective on both religious grounds, someone has to be Catholic or Catholic friendly to come to the school, and be able to handle the academic rigor," Roberts tells KATC in an interview Tuesday. "I look forward to having middle class families, trying to make ends meet, whose children deserve the best education they can get."

Roberts, who also serves on the advisory board for the national conservative lobbying group Catholic Vote, says he was referencing the typical selections process of the school's current student body, not the voucher students it plans to take in. The state Department of Education prohibits selective admissions for voucher students.

Read the school's full statement here.

Read more on the voucher program and local participation here.