Bishop Felipe Estévez of the Diocese of St. Augustine will officiate at a groundbreaking for a $10 million campus for the diocese’s newest school at 9 a.m., Nov. 9, at Holy Rosary Catholic School, 4920 Brentwood Ave., Jacksonville.
The Guardian Catholic School is the result of the merger of two Northside schools: St. Pius V, with 215 students, and Holy Rosary, with 198.
Architects for the project are Ebert, Norman & Brady Architects and Auld & White Constructors is building the school. The building is expected to be ready by August 2017.
Deacon Scott Conway, superintendent of Catholic Schools, said the decision to merge the schools came after the diocese assessed the cost of making repairs to both schools.
“The buildings are in very bad shape,” he said. “The cost to repair them would have been greater than just building a new building to serve both schools.”
Guardian will have twice the capacity of the existing schools, with a maximum of 500 students, Deacon Conway said. The school will have an early learning program for 3- and 4-year-olds and two classes for each grade level through eighth grade.
The new campus will have the latest in technology, a STEM lab, art and music areas and something that neither school has now – a gymnasium.
Construction will be done in phases to allow Holy Rosary students to finish the school year, with major work being done during the summer.
The board of Guardian Catholic Schools spearheaded the $10 million capital campaign, a nonprofit founded in 1995 to raise funds to keep the schools open. The board raises $1 million a year for the schools and will continue to support the new school.
St. Pius was founded in 1921 by the Sisters of St. Joseph to educate African American students in Jacksonville. Holy Rosary was founded in 1958. Both schools have student bodies that are primarily non-Catholic. The high school graduation rate is 95 percent and most of its graduates go on to higher education.
Notre Dame Sister Dianne Rumschlag, executive director of education, said the schools have been an important presence on the Northside of Jacksonville.
“When you look at the notion of breaking the cycle of poverty, there’s no better way to do it than education. You direct the course of a person’s life with education. A quality Catholic education nurtures students’ faith-life and teaches them to be productive citizens,” Sister Dianne said. “That is a lifelong gift.”
“People have always recognized the schools as the presence of the Catholic Church,” Sister Dianne said. “When we make this kind of financial investment, it shows the people who live here that we have that much confidence in the community.”
For details of the school and groundbreaking ceremony, call Mervin Denny at (904) 707-7298.