Members of the Leavenworth Regional Catholic School System Board of Trustees and Immaculata Catholic School principal Rick Geraci answered questions about the closure of the high school during a meeting Thursday night in the school auditorium.
They also informed parents about transition plans for students who will be attending another school next year.
They also distributed a packet of information that included answers to questions such as student transfer credits, entrance exam testing and tuition rates at schools to which IMAC students may wish to transfer next year.
The LRCSS announced last week that declining enrollment at the high school led to the decision to close the school at the end of the spring semester.
This year, Immaculata Catholic School has just 64 students.
The doors of the school officially will close June 2.
LRCSS Board of Trustees member Kate Varney said since the decision to close the school was made, she has “heard the word heartbroken many times” from parents and alumni.
She said board members “struggled mightily” with the decision to close the school but the board ultimately recommended closure of the school out of necessity.
She said having only 64 students enrolled in the high school was not sufficient to sustain operations.
A steady decline in enrollment in recent years led to the decision to close. Enrollment has decreased each year from 120 IMAC students in the 2012-13 school year to 64 now, according to the LRCSS annual report for the fiscal year that ended in June 2016.
As a result of declining enrollment, the gap between income and expenses has grown. According to LRCSS’s fiscal year 2015-16 annual report, income was $2.5 million while expenses were nearly $2.7 million.
Nichole Ackles, spokeswoman for the LRCSS, said about 150 people attended the event.
The audience was invited to write questions on cards to be answered by the board members and school administrators.
Audience member Jeremiah Nichol lamented that the auditorium should have been filled to capacity with people coming to support Catholic education.
Audience member Craig Chmidling, the husband of LRCSS Board of Trustees member Angela Chimdling, responded that a crowd of about 150 people is an indication of the decline in church attendance and overall social morals.
The closure of the school will bring to an end a long history of Catholic secondary education in Leavenworth. The first Catholic high school class started in 1909.
Xavier Catholic School, which has students in preschool through sixth grade, will remain open. Seventh- and eighth-grade classes now being held at the high school will be moved to Xavier beginning in the 2017-18 school year.
What is to become of the aging IMAC school building is uncertain. Geraci said there is a protocol for school closure that includes a long checklist for procedures to deal with class photos, office equipment, desks, etc.
“There’s no easy way to do this,” said Kathy O’Hara, superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kansas.
Ackles said several public, private and Christian school representatives from the area will attend an event at the school Jan. 25. The event will be a chance for current Immaculata students and their families to learn about possible schools to attend next year.
The Greenway Auction, an annual fundraiser for the LRCSS, will be held Feb. 25.
Geraci said the LRCSS will be working on a “legacy event” to celebrate the history of the high school later this spring.