Diocese plans to move Judge Memorial, Our Lady of Lourdes schools
Friday 04 November 2022
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School officials have struggled for years with space issues at Judge Memorial Catholic High School, which spans just 4.4 acres.
SALT LAKE CITY — To help ensure a viable future for Catholic education in Utah, the Diocese of Salt Lake City plans to consolidate the campuses of Judge Memorial Catholic High School and Our Lady of Lourdes and Kearns-St. Ann Elementary Schools on 14.4 acres of property she owns around St. Ann’s Catholic Church at 2119 South 400 East in South Salt Lake.
Utah Catholic Schools Superintendent Mark Longe announced that the diocese is considering selling the property of the current Judge Memorial/Our Lady of Lourdes campus in an Oct. 8 letter sent to the three school communities.
“A move of this magnitude would depend on the value of the property and the success of Justice Memorial’s fundraising campaign,” he wrote.
If the diocese goes through with the plan, students in kindergarten through fifth grade at Notre-Dame de Lourdes and Kearns-St. Ann’s elementary schools would be amalgamated and housed in the historic Kearns-St. Ann’s building. Grades six through eight would be part of the Académie Notre-Dame de Lourdes, which would have its own floor in a new building to be constructed for the high school.
The move would only be possible if the diocese is able to sell the 7.7-acre Judge/Our Lady of Lourdes site at a price sufficient to cover the construction of a new building on the land near Kearns-St. Anne Catholic School.
In an interview with the Intermountain Catholic, Longe pointed out that the diocese was at this point exploring the possibility of a move to the St. Ann campus. “We really don’t know how much money we can get for the land,” he said. “The Bishop has cleared the property for sale so we can see if we can find a buyer who will help us get closer to our target. This whole project is based on the fact that we can sell the land at an adequate price.
While Judge Memorial CHS principal Patrick Lambert expects enrollment to grow at a new campus, the main goal of the move is to retain existing students, he said. A 2019 demographic study sponsored by the diocese found that Catholic schools in Utah experience a lot of attrition between fifth and sixth grade. The main reason students left was because of programming; parents want more electives, more language opportunities and more course variety, Lambert said.
“We’re trying to meet that challenge by providing an enhanced college experience,” he said.
The move would also allow the school to expand its STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), computer coding and industrial arts programs, he said, adding that combining the schools on one campus would allow to pool resources, more specialized teachers and advanced course offerings.
The goal of the move would be to provide a better learning experience for all students, Lambert said.
The St. Ann campus is easily accessible by public transit, another benefit Lambert cites as very important. The new campus would also be energy efficient, while Judge’s buildings have aging issues: construction dates range from 1936 to 1989.
“Sometimes it’s been a pipe dream to be able to get into a place where our energy goals are very different,” Lambert said. “What we see now is that it’s time to modernize. There’s more of a sense of urgency in the sense that I don’t want to put this off so that someone 20 years from now has to deal with the current challenges of our facilities. Having a plan moving forward allows us to have an open and healthy school for the next 100 years.
If the financial side of the equation can work out, the move would allow the diocese to provide a full K-12 campus on the north side of the Salt Lake Valley, similar to the Skaggs Catholic Center in Draper, Longe said. “This will allow us to have two very strong education centers in the valley for the future.”
Moving the Judge Memorial campus is not a new idea. The possibility of moving to St. Ann’s property was first mooted in 1958, Lambert said. JMCHS failed in 1988 with an attempt to purchase South High School as it closed and again in 1995 with a bid for historic Jordan High School, which was closing. In the early 2000s, they also examined a property that is now the Granite School District campus in South Salt Lake.
Although all of these efforts proved unsuccessful, “every time it happened, it really revolved around the fact that Judge Memorial was on four and a half acres; most high schools are on 20 acres,” Lambert said.
The difference this time is that there is strong interest from buyers, local and national, in the Judge property, Lambert said. Additionally, discussions with the judging community have resulted in verbal commitments for significant additional funding, he said.
“Our community support is immense,” he said. “This construction is being received extremely positively. We are very optimistic that the Judge Memorial community is coming together to create the best learning environment for its future students.
The diocese has already put the property up for sale and the school’s fundraising campaign is expected to continue over the next two years. If funds are raised, the new buildings could be completed in three to four years, Lambert said.
If the move proves financially impossible, the school community will regroup and look at other options, Longe said.
“We would like to pursue the idea of consolidating a K-12 model and if we had to do that locally, we would do a strategic planning process to do that,” he said. “We probably couldn’t afford to do it on the scale that we do now.
“We just want to stay on the cutting edge,” he added. “Judge is a four-time blue ribbon school. We want to be able to continue to maintain these programs and provide the best education for years to come for our students.