Parents and alumni planning new Immaculate Conception Academy

Just over a month after the Immaculate Conception Church announced plans to close its school in Downtown Ithaca at the end of this school year, a group of “parents and alumni have banded together” to plan a new school they hope will open this fall.

“The closure of Immaculate Conception School is painful for all concerned,” a letter from pastor Reverend Father Augustine Chumo and principal Donald Mills had said in May, “but it is based on the assessment of declining enrollment, increasing cost projections, and the impact those elements have had and will have on the future welfare of the parish.”

At the time, students, parents, and many alumni who’d attended the school expressed surprise and dismay, and wondered if something could be done to save the school. The only Catholic school remaining in Tompkins County was founded in 1884, and closed earlier this week.

Enrollment at the Immaculate Conception School, which had served pre-kindergarten through 6th grade, has been about 100 students in the past, but “as of May 2, 2017, registrations totaled 56 students,” according to the letter sent yesterday to church and school families in May. “Every effort will be made to find a Catholic school for those families interested in continuing to provide a Catholic education for their children, as well as positions in other diocesan schools for those employed by our beloved school.”

Organizers of the new Immaculate Conception Academy say they’re working to finalize a location, and curriculum approval by the Ithaca City School District is “pending.” They say St. Ann’s Academy in Hornell “went through a very similar process in 2012,” and are anticipating an enrollment of 90 students for the fall of 2017.

“Founding board members of that school have met with our leadership and they have been beyond generous in providing us with everything we need to launch Immaculate Conception Academy,” says Carolann Darling, one of the new school’s organizers and a former youth minister of the parish who supports Catholic education.

Anyone interested in helping to open the school or otherwise interested in their progress is welcome to e-mail or write P.O. Box 6704, Ithaca, New York, 14851.

“We are coming back better than before,” Carolann Darling tells us.

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