TACOMA – Starting next school year, Holy Rosary Bilingual Academy will move from the campus of Tacoma’s Holy Rosary Parish to St. Martin of Tours Parish in Fife.
Principal Katie Dempsey announced the change to school families during a “state of the school” meeting February 27.
“I am very excited about this move for our school community,” Dempsey said, noting that becoming a parish school of St. Martin’s will mean weekly Masses in a church building, strong pastoral leadership, financial support from the parish, a nicer facility and a safer campus.
“It’s a change that’s necessary for us to continue the mission that our school is focused on,” she said.
The school will retain its name, its uniforms and its emphasis on bilingual education, though the approach will change. The school’s current model of alternating days of English- and Spanish-language instruction made it difficult to enroll older students, Dempsey said. In the new model, pre-K classes will continue to be 100% Spanish immersion; older students will have daily Spanish language classes, while other subjects will be taught in English.
Dempsey said uncertainty about the future of Holy Rosary Parish and its church campus had caused “enrollment and publicity issues” for the school and contributed to the decision to move. The school is independent of Holy Rosary Parish, but operates on the parish campus.
Last August, Archbishop J. Peter Sartain ordered Holy Rosary Church to be demolished after a series of assessments determined the building needed nearly $18 million in structural repairs. Since succeeding Archbishop Sartain in September, Archbishop Paul D. Etienne has been in discussions with Holy Rosary’s pastoral and finance councils about the future of the parish.
The school’s current building also needs about $1 million in maintenance and renovations, Dempsey said, while the facility in Fife, about 5 miles away, is in “fantastic shape.”
The school building at St. Martin’s was built in the 1960s. From 1993 to 2019, it served as the K–2 campus of Puyallup’s All Saints School.
Father Michael Radermacher, pastor of St. Martin’s and All Saints, welcomed the arrival of the Holy Rosary school, noting that St. Martin’s parishioners had been “grieving” the absence of the All Saints students since they returned to the Puyallup campus last year.
“It’s been a long-held dream for the parishioners of St. Martin of Tours to have a parish school of their own,” Father Radermacher told Northwest Catholic. “I’m excited because the parish from its very inception has wanted to form the children of Fife in the faith.”
In a statement, Kristin Dixon, superintendent of Catholic schools, noted that the move “gives us the opportunity to serve a region of the archdiocese that currently lacks a Catholic school.”
The move to Fife will bring “a ton of benefits” for the school community, Dempsey said.
“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. In partnership with the parish at St. Martin of Tours, I think that’s what we’ll have.”