After struggling with enrollment numbers in recent years, Immaculata High School is closing its doors.
The Board of Trustees of the Leavenworth Regional Catholic School System announced Wednesday morning that it will recommend to Archbishop Joseph Naumann to close the high school, which has students in seventh through 12th grade.
The closure will be effective June 2 at the end of the spring semester.
Xavier Catholic School, which has students in preschool through sixth grade, will remain open. Seventh- and eighth-grade students currently attending classes at the high school will be moved to Xavier next year.
“Catholic education is not going away in Leavenworth,” said Rick Geraci, principal at Immaculata High School and president of the LRCSS.
Nichole Ackles, a spokeswoman for the LRCSS, said the recommendation to close the high school is based on the inability to maintain financial stability.
“This is tied directly to the need for increasing enrollment, which we have been unable to accomplish,” Rolly Dessert wrote in a press release.
Dessert is the chairman of LRCSS Board of Trustees.
“We continue to applaud the outstanding performance of teachers and students, and the sacrifices made by parents to provide a Catholic secondary education option for families in Leavenworth County since 1909,” he said in the press release.
Dessert wrote a letter to the parents of IMAC students and school stakeholders dated Jan. 4.
“We are at a crossroads with problems growing beyond our ability to solve,” Dessert wrote in the letter. “Despite the best efforts of our current dedicated leaders, the demand for Catholic education in our region continues to decline as evidenced by a lack of growth in enrollment, particularly at Immaculata.”
Dessert wrote that the LRCSS can no longer sustain school operations at the high school. He indicated that cost per student exceeds revenue per student by more than $5,000.
Ackles said enrollment at the high school has stabilized in recent years, but has not increased.
“While our school and students are thriving and happy, we have simply run out of money and time to continue operations and meet our high expectations,” Dessert wrote.
Kathy O’Hara, superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas, said the current enrollment at Immaculata is 66 students in ninth through 12th grade.
Ackles said the school system has 120 students in preschool, 124 students in kindergarten through sixth grade and 40 students in seventh and eighth grade.
O’Hara said Archbishop Naumann is expected to authorize the recommendation of the LRCSS to close the school.
“It’s not a happy day when a school has to close,” O’Hara said. “But if there is a silver lining in this, there are other Catholic high school options reasonably close (to Leavenworth).”
O’Hara said Maur Hill Mount Academy in Atchison, St. James Academy in Lenexa, Bishop Ward High School in Kansas City, Bishop Miege High School in Roeland Park and St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Overland Park are all within 30 minutes of Leavenworth.
Ackles said the No. 1 concern for the LRCSS now is to help students, teachers and staff with their future plans, whether those plans include continuing in Catholic secondary education or going to the public schools.
Geraci said he has directed staff and faculty at the high school to create transition plans for each Immaculata student for the 2017-18 school year.
The annual Greenway Auction, a fundraiser for LRCSS, is still scheduled for Feb. 25 at McGilley Field House on the University of Saint Mary campus.
Ackles said what becomes of the school building, banners, class photos, desks, equipment, computers, etc., remains undecided.
The LRCSS Board of Trustees will hold an information meeting at 7 p.m. Jan. 12 in the Immaculata auditorium. Parents are invited and welcome to ask questions.
“We are grateful to the Leavenworth community for its support of Immaculata High School over many years,” Dessert said in the press release. “We are particularly indebted to our wonderful donors, Catholic parishes and community partners, the University of Saint Mary and the Sisters of Charity, for their tremendous support. As much as we appreciate our partners for their support, we are unable to sustain Immaculata and its aging school building. We will continue these partnerships as we move forward with enthusiasm to sustain and enhance Catholic education at Xavier Catholic School.”