Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput said Thursday that the Faith in the Future Foundation's management of archdiocesan high schools has been so successful that both sides have agreed to an early contract extension.

The announcement, which the archdiocese called a highlight of Catholic Schools Week, was made at Archbishop Ryan High School in the Far Northeast - one of the 17 archdiocesan secondary schools in the five-county archdiocese that enroll 13,300 students.

"We weren't sure if it was going to work, so we entered into a contract for a limited time in order to test it," the archbishop said. "Well, it's been tested, and it's been proven very worthy."

Chaput said the partnership between the archdiocese and the foundation, and the pioneering business model it created, will now run through June 30, 2022. The initial contract took effect Sept. 1, 2012, and had been scheduled to end June 30, 2017.

The five-year extension also affects the four special-education schools and their 180 students.

"We think that the early renewal reflects a great vote of confidence in the progress the foundation has made and in its hope for the future," said H. Edward Hanway, chairman of the Faith in the Future board.

Based in King of Prussia, the independent foundation was established in 2012 to raise funds to erase deficits of the Catholic high schools - especially four that had been targeted for closing by a blue-ribbon panel because of declining enrollment and rising costs. At the time, the secondary system was losing more than 1,300 students per year.

The foundation has raised more than $14 million for the schools, boosted financial aid, and brought in more technology and innovation, and focused on stabilizing and growing enrollment.

Samuel Casey Carter, the foundation's CEO, said the foundation would focus on continuing to improve the schools' educational quality and helping more interested families afford them.

"We need to work very hard to increase access for families to these schools - whether they are families from low-income homes, or whether they are families with children with special needs, or whether they are families from immigrant populations," Carter said.

Basic tuition is $6,800, although rates are higher at the two newest high schools, which are paying down building loans. Students received $17.6 million in financial aid from a variety of sources in 2014-15, compared with $10.9 million before the foundation was created.

Since the foundation took over the schools' management, Hanway said, operating deficits have been eliminated, and enrollment has stabilized and modest growth is projected for next fall. He said the early extension of the agreement was an outgrowth of regular talks with Chaput.

Hanway said, "I suggested to him that one visible way to demonstrate that ongoing belief in this model was to renew the agreement early and to do it as part of Catholic Schools Week."

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