PORTLAND – The school district’s program for students who have trouble fitting into mainstream classrooms will mostly likely be moved out of the run-down West School on Douglass Street.

Superintendent James Morse said Thursday that the school board has been reviewing, in private meetings, a plan for the school department to enter into a lease agreement with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland.

The department would move West School students into the diocese’s Cathedral School at 307 Congress St., possibly later this year.

Citing a $115,000 deficit and $330,000 in debt to the Cathedral parish for past losses, Bishop Richard Malone closed Cathedral School in June.

“We’ve been in negotiations since they announced Cathedral School’s closure,” Morse said.

All talks about the move have been held in executive session, but Morse said he plans to introduce the proposal publicly at Tuesday’s school board meeting.

The board wouldn’t take a final vote on the plan until its next business meeting, on Nov. 1, Morse said.

“The sad part is, these youngsters are in a facility that is incredibly substandard,” he said.

About 40 students are in the program. They have challenges, from violent or aggressive tendencies to interpersonal, psychological or emotional problems.

The building they use on Douglass Street has a leaky roof, a sunken foundation, broken windows and poor insulation.

This summer, the Woodford’s Congregational Church rejected a plan that would have allowed the West School program to use its parish house.

Morse said that after the deal with Woodfords fell through, he contacted the diocese to ask if it would be willing to lease Cathedral School.

Morse is proposing that the school department rent 22,500 square feet at Cathedral School for 20 years. He declined to reveal the cost, saying he will make it public at the school board’s November meeting.

Morse is proposing that the school department’s Multilingual Office also move to Cathedral School, which is part of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception church campus.

By making the move, Morse said, he would be able to have all of the school department’s adult education students use the West School. Some of those students now take classes at Riverton Elementary School.

“It’s a real domino effect of good things,” he said.

Sue Bernard, spokeswoman for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, said the lease proposal may allow for a portion of the Cathedral School to be used for religious education.

“I think it will be a good solution for both sides once all the details have been worked out,” Bernard said.

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at: [email protected]