SALT LAKE CITY — One hundred years ago, the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City opened Judge Memorial Catholic High School in Salt Lake City. Now, renovation is complete on a portion of the building and a new middle school academy was dedicated on Monday.
It's being called the most significant development in Catholic education in Utah since the opening of Juan Diego Catholic High School 20 years ago.
Our Lady of Lourdes Middle School Academy is for seventh and eighth graders and is located on the fourth-floor Learning Commons at Judge Memorial. It opened Aug. 16, but on Monday, Bishop Oscar Azarcón Solís attended its dedication and ribbon-cutting, along with other dignitaries from the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City.
The academy has "long been envisioned," said Derek Jensen, director of communications at Judge Memorial. He added that the most significant part of the new development is the new curriculum that will give students a "fully fledged academy experience," with an "innovative, forward-thinking model of education" that includes advanced mathematics, fine arts, foreign languages, extracurriculars, athletics and more.
Both Judge Memorial and the new middle school educate based on cura personalis, or care for the whole person. This involves programs that focus on creating well-rounded students in academic, physical and social development.
The school requires masks and has stated it will be vigilant about following protocols to allow kids to keep learning in person. Judge Memorial was one of the only schools in Utah that didn't have to go fully virtual during the onset of the pandemic last year. The new classrooms have been built twice the size of a traditional classroom to allow for easier social distancing.
The academy's motto is, "Where everybody is somebody," focusing on diversity from all different cultures, faiths, ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds. The school's dedication is a step toward the creation of a unified Catholic school campus for children of all ages in the northern portion of the Salt Lake Valley.
"We are unabashedly Catholic, but we celebrate other faith traditions as well," Jensen said. "More so than ever, we feel like the model and mission of Catholic teaching is as relevant in the 21st century as it ever was."
Jensen explained that the students receive "top-notch theology" and have "family groups," in which the older children mentor the younger children. There is also weekly mass at the neighboring parish.
"We're not interested in conversion," he said. "We're interested in conversion of character. We think that the Catholic teaching of empathy for others lines up with the school's mission. We want our children to be builders of a more just society."