The newest school for the Diocese of St. Augustine – Guardian Catholic – will be dedicated by Bishop Felipe Estévez on Monday, Oct. 30, beginning at 10:00 a.m. The new school is located at 4920 Brentwood Ave. on Jacksonville’s Northside.

Principals Therese Jackson and Sister Cynthia Shaffer on the first day of the school year at the new Guardian Catholic School on Jacksonville’s Northside. (Photo by St. Augustine Catholic/Brandon Duncan)

The dedication will include the celebration of a special Mass, blessing and ribbon-cutting ceremony. The school opened on August 9, completing the merger of St. Pius V and Holy Rosary schools.

The decision to merge the schools on a new campus was made because the old buildings were in such bad condition. The new $10.3 million campus has an early learning program for 3- and 4-year-olds and two classes for each grade level through eighth grade.

Notre Dame Sister Dianne Rumschlag will continue as the executive director of education and Notre Dame Sister Cynthia Shaffer, former principal of Holy Rosary, will be the principal of grades 4-8 and Therese Jackson was appointed as principal for grades PreK-3.

“Guardian Catholic is an all-new facility with a gym for the first time. That will be a huge plus. It will provide students the complete educational experience,” said Deacon Scott Conway, diocesan superintendent of Catholic schools.

Guardian Catholic now has twice the capacity of the old schools, accommodating 500 students. It will continue to serve a predominantly African-American, non-Catholic student body.

Students await the first bell to start the first day of classes. (Photo by St. Augustine Catholic/Brandon Duncan)

“We’re not downsizing,” said Sister Dianne. “We’re combining schools to accommodate growth.” The new Northside campus demonstrates the diocese’s commitment to breaking the cycle of poverty and helping students build faith-based lives, she said.

Construction began last spring while school was still in session and was completed over the summer. Skanska, the Owner’s Rep; Auld & White, and ENB built the school.

The Guardian Catholic Schools Board raised about $1 million annually through donations of cash and in-kind goods and services, community partnerships and fundraisers, like the annual golf tournament. The board also offers tuition assistance along with educational and spiritual outreach to low-income families.

“The $10.3 million capital campaign, spearheaded by the board, is ongoing and has received a lot of support from the community,” said Sister Dianne.