"We respect our traditions of the past, but the reality is that we understand that we're looking at building a brand new school," Kestler said. "Our school is in a new mode."
That mode is courtesy of several factors, including Faith in the Future Foundation, which launched this year to support the region's 17 Archdiocesan high schools by covering operational deficits.
The high schools across the five-county area have the largest freshmen classes in more than a decade, according to Samuel Casey Carter, CEO of the foundation.
"Enrollment is up across the entire system, and it will only continue to grow from here," Carter said. "We want to make a high-quality Catholic education available to anybody in the city of Philadelphia who wants it."
Paul Colistra, vice president for institutional advancement at West Catholic, said the school has raised $250,000 of its annual $1.3 million goal. That's $100,000 more than expected.
Another donor, meanwhile, has already committed to fund up to $1 million in strategic planning costs. Colistra said student visits, open-house participation and scholarship tests have doubled.
Aside from individual donors, state tax credit programs like the Educational Improvement Tax Credit and Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit are just as important, Colistra said. The credits allow businesses to receive tax breaks for money they donate for families to send their kids to private schools.
West Catholic has also established relationships with Penn, Drexel and St. Joseph's universities. These partnerships, Carter said, will bolster growth and better prepare students, allowing the largest and oldest Catholic education system in the country to grow again.
To be fully sustainable, West Catholic needs to enroll at least 315 students next year. The target is enrolling 500 students at the end of a five-year plan.
"Our goal is lofty this year, but surely reachable," Colistra said. "We'll see in the next month how all that interest converts to students."