Holy Rosary Bilingual Academy moves to Fife

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By Matt Nagle

matt@tacomaweekly.com

The Archdiocese of Seattle has announced that Holy Rosary Bilingual Academy will move from Holy Rosary Catholic Church in Tacoma to the St. Martin of Tours Parish campus in Fife starting with the 2020–2021 academic year. 

According to a press release from the archdiocese, the bilingual school will retain its name, its uniforms and its emphasis on bilingual education. The school will continue to serve students from pre-K through eighth grade. Older students will have daily Spanish language classes, while other subjects will be taught in English. 

This shift from the current model of alternating days of English- and Spanish-language instruction will ensure that students can join the school at any grade level – a decision that supports the desire to increase enrollment and welcome students who wish to learn Spanish in this innovative program. The school will continue to offer after-school clubs and activities in Spanish, including Hispanic dance classes. St. Martin of Tours plans to add portable classrooms in 2021–2022 to handle the projected increase in enrollment. 
“I am very excited about this move for our school community,” said Katie Dempsey, principal of Holy Rosary since 2015. “We can continue our mission as part of St. Martin of Tours Parish, which will provide us with weekly masses in the church, strong pastoral leadership, financial support from the parish community, and a wonderful new home for our students, while embracing the diversity and accessibility that make our community so special.”

Dempsey acknowledged that the current Holy Rosary school building requires more than $1 million in maintenance and renovations including the need for a new roof, new windows and heating on the first floor of the building.

“Our students will thrive in this new learning environment,” she said. “We will be in a building that’s in much better condition and on a campus that is much safer than our current one. The kids deserve to have a church, a priest, a safe campus and a nice facility in which to learn. The school deserves to have viability and a strong future that can be sustained. As part of the parish at St. Martin of Tours, I think that’s what we’ll have.”

For the members of Save Tacoma’s Landmark Church (STLC) and those in the general community fighting to save Holy Rosary from demolition, news of the academy’s move is not a good sign regarding the archdiocese’s desire to raze the church, according to STLC board member Joy Donohue.

“It makes the archdiocese’s intentions and motives clearer than ever,” she said. “Moving the school to the St. Martin of Tours campus in Fife leaves the entire seven acres empty (at Holy Rosary). This land is worth at least $30 million, likely much more to developers. So there is just one obstacle left: demolition of Holy Rosary Church.”

Donohue explained that due to Holy Rosary’s protected landmark status, the only way that the church can be demolished is through the City of Tacoma. If, or when, the archdiocese files for a demolition permit, STLC is prepared to file a counter suit based on Landmark Preservation rules.

“If the archdiocese sells the land with the church intact, it will never be able to be torn down,” Donohue said. “They are the only ones with any chance of doing so in its current state of not such bad disrepair. If it were falling down, it would be another story. Perhaps we’re heading to Rome and then court sooner than we thought. Perhaps by the end of the school year.”

Donohue said that from the beginning, STLC presumed that the archdiocese’s intentions were to sell the land to make up for the detriment left after paying out $74 million between the late 1980s and 2016 in clergy sex abuse scandals, none of which stemmed from Holy Rosary.

“The same weekend that they announced the ‘close and raze’ of Holy Rosary Church, they began a capital campaign to raise $100 million to make up for funds ‘missing’ from the priests’ retirement funds. It is presumed that these numbers are one and the same.”

For Holy Rosary to once again be occupied, STLC must raise around $2.249 million, of which $1 million has already been raised. Full restoration of Holy Rosary church will cost an estimated $18 million, and STLC has set periodic goals to reach this amount. STLC received a big boost with to a $1 million pledge from the Jack and Angela Connelly Foundation. The pledge consists of $500,000 and the foundation will match all donations given from now to Aug. 31, up to $500,000. Learn more at www.SaveTacomasLandmarkChurch.com.

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