Sarah Lahm wrote in The Progressive about a community battle in St. Paul, Minnesota, over the fate of a historic church building. 

The church in question is St. Andrew’s. Built in 1927 in the Romanesque Revival style, the brown brick church boasts an impressive, multicolored terra-cotta tile roof and a handsome bell tower. From the street, it looks alive and well kept, although Mass hasn’t been celebrated there since 2011.

Back then, the shrinking parish was merged with another one nearby while the building sat in limbo for two years. In 2013, the Twin Cities German Immersion School, a growing charter school in search of a permanent home, began leasing the church building and its accompanying school site by taking on $8 million in construction and real-estate debt.

The local community didn’t mind that the charter school moved in. It does object, however, to plans to tear it down. The St. Paul NAACP joined the opposition to the charter’s plan to grow.

But money isn’t the reason the St. Paul NAACP opposed the proposed expansion of the Twin Cities German Immersion School. Instead, it is segregation. The group, in a statement issued on December 19, 2018, cited the national NAACP’s 2016 call for a moratorium on the expansion of charter schools and argued that allowing the Twin Cities German Immersion School to grow further would “exacerbate the racial and economic segregation in the St. Paul schools.”

The Twin Cities German Immersion School is almost 90 percent white, the NAACP statement noted, while just 7 percent of its students live in poverty, as defined by federal guidelines. That represents a sharp difference from the student population at Como Park Elementary, a neighborhood school in the St. Paul system that sits just one mile away from the Twin Cities German Immersion School.

At Como Park Elementary, only 10 percent of its nearly 500 students are white and the majority live in poverty.

Opponents of the plan to tear down the church appealed to the City Council to designate the building a historic landmark. The council turned them down, 5-0.

The fight is far from over. On Monday, the group Save Historic St. Andrew’s filed a lawsuit under the Minnesota Environmental Rights Act to prevent demolition. Goldstein said the suit was in anticipation of the council voting against historic designation.