A student at Marquette Academy climbs across the rings on the playground outside the school in this file photo. The school celebrated its 10-year anniversary Sunday. KEVIN E. SCHMIDT

For decades, children have climbed the long oak staircases and studied in the spacious classrooms of the school building on 6th Street in Davenport now known as Marquette Academy. 

On Sunday, current and former teachers and students came together to celebrate the past special 10 years, while vowing to see the school continue to survive as an example of community spirit and quality education.

According to a history of Scott County published in 1882, it all goes back to 1855, when a stone church was built for German immigrants living in the area.

By 1883, a brick edifice replaced the stone for the congregation of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church on the corner of 6th and Marquette streets. The dark brick school building was built nearly a century ago as part of this campus.

St. Joseph’s Church was closed in 1999, however, the casualty of a merger with nearby St. Mary’s. The St. Joseph school seemed destined to close as well.

“I remember when the diocese tried to shut us down,” said former student Kathleen Gallagher-Quilty. “We protested against it, and were lucky enough that someone else wanted to keep the school open.”

The school was taken over by an independent group and became Holy Trinity Mission School, with 92 students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade. A name change a few years later to Marquette Academy was a more appropriate indicator of its nondenominational status, said board president Joe Borbeck.

“When we took this over, we bought the church and everything,” said Borbeck. A few years ago, the school sold the church and rectory to the nondenominational Legacy Church. “They have the same mission that we do,” said Borbeck.

Marquette Academy currently has 35 students in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade. The old hallways are filled with the children’s artwork, including spring flowers, kites and shamrocks. Carefully planned classrooms offer modern learning experiences, and the children enjoy individualized attention.

Borbeck said the class size is limited to 10. “That’s part of our goals,” he said, citing the reason for eliminating the sixth, seventh and eighth grades from the curriculum. “We needed to prepare the kids to go into other systems with the best abilities in reading, writing and the rest.”

Pam Bulens teaches fourth and fifth grades and likes the small classes. “I can give them all the one-on-one attention that they need,” she said. Bulens continues a family legacy: Her mother, aunt and grandfather all attended school in the old building.

“I never felt like it was just school,” said Gallagher-Quilty, who herself has just become a teacher. “It was coming to a community. It was tightly knit and I had wonderful teachers who made a huge impact on my life.”

“It’s more of a family atmosphere,” agreed Marney Tope, who taught first grade there when it was Holy Trinity.

“Our teachers have a passion for student success,” said principal Carolyn Merrill, now in her second year at Marquette.

For more information about Marquette Academy, call the school at (563) 322-3723.