New school or old church? St. Paul community at odds about future of St. Andrew's

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There’s a battle over a building in St. Paul as a public charter school operating out of an old church wants to tear the church down to make room for more classrooms.

Some in the area are pushing back, however.

“Our task is to educate our students and we’ve found that we…that this doesn’t work,” said Ted Anderson.

When Twin Cities German Immersion School bought the former St. Andrew’s Church and its attached school building from the archdiocese, there were stipulations about how it could be used, but nothing saying it couldn’t be torn down.

“It was part of the limitations actually that we were a school and we bought the property because of the school and the former church building kind of came along with it,” Anderson added. “Our main interest is in what you see behind me here.”

The 97-year-old church building itself, they say, is pricy to maintain and has a lot of space the school can’t repurpose.

The former sanctuary became the gymnasium, the church basement serves as cafeteria, but as enrollment grew, they cooked up plans for demolition and expansion.

They found trying to further remodel, repurpose or salvage was too expensive.

“The idea of saving perhaps one wall was discussed, but again, it was cost prohibitive,” Anderson said.

The opposition, called Save Historic St. Andrew’s Church, is passionate about the cause.

“There’s a lot of history here that can’t be destroyed,” said Bonnie Youngquist, of the opposition.

Their campaign is strongly rooted in history, nostalgia and the heritage the building represents.

“It wipes out all the history of the neighborhood where we had Italian and German and Hungarian immigrants who use the church as their social center,” Youngquist added.

“But we’ve remained strong in our resolve that we’re doing right by our kids and we’re doing right by St. Paul, we’re doing right by the Twin Cities,” Anderson said.  

City Council Meeting

At Wednesday night's meeting, one of the school's board members Kelly Laudon explained the situation. 

"This is akin to a death sentence," she said. She later added, "Our top priority of the school are the needs of the children and the teachers." 

She likened the historical designation to "siphoning off educational dollars for the benefit of a small group of individuals who like to look at the structure." 

She said it was unfair to children and it puts the school at a disadvantage. 

On the other hand, Bob Roscoe, of Minneapolis, said, "Don't tear down your history!"

He and others spoke in favor of making the 92-year-old church a St. Paul Heritage Preservation site. 

"It is important to anchor memory physically where we can not let such significant places as St. Andrew's be set adrift in a storm of troubles," said Jennie Hausler, the church architect's granddaughter. 

The City Council will vote on the issue in June.