PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – A local group is working to open up a private, nonprofit Catholic high school in the fall of 2012 in North Philadelphia.

John McConnell, the chairman of the trustees at St. Joseph’s Preparatory School at 18th and Girard, is among the leaders of the group behind the effort to establish a Cristo Rey High School at the former parish school at Our Lady of Hope Church (above), at Broad and Duncannon Streets in the Logan section of the city.

McConnell says the model, started in 1996 in Chicago, combines academics, extracurricular activities, and one-day-a-week work experience in a business.

“It’s thriving in other cities,” McConnell says.  “It sends underprivileged kids through a rigorous education and gets them into college.  And we need it in Philadelphia,” he adds.

McConnell says students will have to pay tuition, but much of it will be reduced by fundraising and payments by businesses for the work experiences.

“Our office certainly supports the opportunity for more students to have the availability of a different kind of a Catholic school,” says Mary Rochford, superintendent of schools in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

Organizers hope to start with a class of 9th graders and will add grades in successive years.  A mix of religious and lay teachers will handle instruction.

Reported by Mark Abrams, KYW Newsradio 1060

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