Local admins, current Raiders speak more on the closing of IMAC

 

 

 

By ALAN DALE

adale@leavenworthtimes.com

With the announced closing of Immaculata High School imminent at the conclusion of the spring semester, the reactions around the area have been as expected.

As athletes and coaches enter the climatic, final chapter of Raider sports, some have reflected on what this closing means.

“I hope they stick together,” senior Jordan Sachse says of her wishes that the current teams finish well. “I wish they would have been able to experience all four years at Immaculata; it truly is the best place to be.

“I am going to remember IMAC forever and I know everyone else who is currently in the system and everyone who has been a part of the system in the past will remember it as well. Every single person at IMAC, including coaches and teachers, have shaped me into the person I am today. With their influence, I believe I am capable of overcoming all of the obstacles I will have to face in the future. Thank you so much, IMAC family. You will forever have a special place in my heart.”

For others like sophomore Zach Schwinn, it’s the idea that the Raiders could be remembered for the wrong reasons.

“I hope IMAC isn’t remembered as the school that had to close down,” Schwinn said. “I hope what we did around the community and in sporting events shows that we were strong competitors who left everything on the field or court. I think many other students would agree in saying that we have made lifelong friendships with our others because of Immaculata and I hope these relationships will be able to continue.”

For some, the closing of the school was unexpected.

“I was initially surprised,” girls’ basketball coach James Bishop said. “I just know how the people who go here, work here, or have graduated feel about the school. I love Basehor-Linwood the high school I graduated from as much as anyone, but man the alumni of Immaculata are something else. The people who work here every day, I mean they named the basketball court after Mike Connelly and he is still working at the school every day, representing IMAC,  teaching, and winning. He is just one of the many dedicated representatives of the school.  

“But there is no denying that the school has had its issues financially over the past decade, as well as having to continually deal with rumors of them closing down, and I’m very sad that it has caught up with them. It’s extremely unfortunate that the kids are the ones that have to deal with those consequences and pay in the end by being forced out of a school they helped build and love.”

There are still almost six months left to proceed so the art of motivating these current athletes will be an interesting subplot.

“From a motivational standpoint, I think this only adds to what we are trying to accomplish this year,” boys’ basketball coach Drew Molitoris said. “With our boys basketball team in particular being so young, there was a tendency to think about the possibilities of how good we could be two to three years from now as these guys keep playing together. In a way, everyone on our team just became a senior. 

“We owe it to all our IMAC alums and everyone that came before us to make this season as memorable as possible. I think we should all feel an increased sense of urgency to make the most of each practice, bus ride, game, team meal, etc.”     

Nearby high schools like Lansing, Leavenworth and Pleasant Ridge could see an influx of extra students next year, which may affect their future classification statuses, but for now the loss of a local school is what matters most.

“First I would like to say that I am saddened to learn about Immaculata closing,” Pleasant Ridge athletic director Lucas Siebenmorgan said. “The faculty and staff have been great to work with and are truly dedicated to the students in their school. They would always show support for each and every person regardless if they attended Immaculata or they were from a rival school. They were also a genuine partner to have in the Northeast Kansas League.  

“From what I understand enrollment has been declining and they were unable to attract new students. This is a pattern happening not only at private schools but rural schools across Kansas where populations are diminishing.

“The closing may have an effect on our overall enrollment depending on how many of their students select Pleasant Ridge, but I do not think it will affect our classification. However, it will impact our athletic program in regards to scheduling. Next year we are scheduled to play Immaculata/Maranatha as our last district football game, but due to the circumstances that game is now up in the air. As for the other athletic schedules, we will meet as a league to determine our next steps.”

“As someone who grew up in Leavenworth it is always sad to see a school close that not only has a lot of history in this community, but has served many students, and provided employment for many teachers, administrators, and other support staff,” Leavenworth High School athletic director James Vanek said. “As those families make decisions on what school they choose to send their student(s) to further their education and prepare for the next phase of their life we would welcome them as we do any new family to our school and district. 

“As it pertains to classification, it may or may not have any impact. Currently, we are one of the larger schools in class 5A, but from one year to the next it is uncertain as to how many students we lose or receive from military families in addition to growth or decline of enrolled students in other buildings across the state.”

Lansing athletic director Gary Mattingly said that his school is too much in the middle of the 5A classification and any extra students wouldn’t affect their standing.

So now the future of the current underclassmen athletes is up in the air with many questions to be asked and answered.

“I’m undecided where I will attend next fall, but it will either be Leavenworth, Lansing, Pleasant Ridge, or Maur Hill Mount Academy, but for the time being and for the rest of my life I will view myself as an Immaculata Raider,” Schwinn said. “I was hoping to help build us back into a strong basketball program, and I definitely think we turned some heads in my two years here. I think we would've had great success in the next few years, but unfortunately, we will never know. 

“I hope that IMAC will be able to build back up one day and maybe my kids will be able to attend Immaculata. I am extremely thankful for everything IMAC has done for me and I wish I could continue going to school at IMAC. IMAC will always have a special place in my heart and I will always bleed green.”

“Immaculata is special because of the people,” Molitoris said. “From alums and former teachers to our current students, parents and staff, everyone that has spent consistent time in that building has a deep sense of pride in the school.   

“I’m certainly going to miss seeing the kids on a daily basis. I love each of the young men in our program and look forward to maintaining relationships even as they go their separate ways next year.”

There are those who have dedicated much of their time to the school and its success who are left to stew over a future without IMAC.

“My initial reaction is a heartfelt sinking feeling,” IMAC soccer coach Frank Mazeitis said. “It is hard to believe and is difficult to put into words all of my feelings. After putting four kids through IMAC; seeing IMAC at its apex both academically and athletically; helping get the IMAC soccer program started; coaching the program for 29 years, it is very difficult for me to realize it has come to an end. I will miss it all – the great kids, the staff, and the parents.

“I think the community will be lesser for it and IMAC’s demise will give a different  presence to the whole area. I am left with so many fond memories of IMAC in so many areas. I will always cherish them.”

There is a meeting next week about the closing of the school and what could come out of it is anyone’s guess.

Some of the students hope it can breed some hope.

“People have always thought of IMAC as a family, and there is no better word to describe it,” sophomore Adam Schwinn said. “Not just because it’s small, it is unique in its own way. Everyone within our IMAC family cares about one another, and about making each other better. As a student athlete, I can say that teachers care about us doing our best academically and help to achieve that, and our coaches inspire us to play with a special kind of heart. 

“It’s also easy for others to overlook the faith aspect. Immaculata is a Catholic school, and almost everything we do is to glorify God. The fact that our doors can’t stay open and that our school has to become a memory is incredibly saddening, and honestly, I’ve yet to fully accept it. We know that the closing is pretty much set in stone, but many of us are still praying for a miracle.”

Twitter: @LVTSportsGuy