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Immaculate Conception at night by Vincent Embser

ICS is Opening Doors for 148th Continuous Year of Catholic Education in Allegany County

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Immaculate Conception School Enrollment is Open

By Sandy Rigas

The rumors abounding about town and on social media have hopefully been put to rest:

Immaculate Conception School is NOT closing.

            “We are open for business,” said Caitilin Dewey, ICS principal. That “business” being the education of children, the school is ready to begin the 148th year of offering Allegany County families an alternative to public school education.

            Changes, of course, have taken place over the nearly 150 years the school, located at 24 Maple Avenue in Wellsville, has been continuously open, with the waxing and waning of enrollment being one of them. Declining student population has affected schools nationwide, as birth rates were lower during the past decade. Student enrollment for the 2022-2023 academic year at ICS is admittedly low, which alarmed parents and gave wind to the rumors that the school would be closing.

            Parents, school administration, and faculty gathered Monday evening for a meeting at the school so that “we could all be in one place at the same time” to allay concerns, put an end to the rumors, and discuss the plans for the new school year.

            With traditionally smaller class sizes than public school classrooms, ICS has always been able to offer students more individualized attention. “The smaller numbers this year (for kindergarten, first, second, third and fourth grades) give us an opportunity to do something different here,” Dewey said. “It’s going to allow us to group children in a multi-age setting.”

            These groupings will include kindergarten & first grade, and third & fourth grade. Second grade will at times move in either direction. “Multi-age grouping is not the old ‘one-room schoolhouse’ type of instruction. It will create opportunity for more social interaction, while still allowing teachers the ability to give each grade level, and each student, what they need to grow,” she explained. “We’re looking at this in a positive, progressive way, not as a negative.”

            Number one question from the parents gathered was: Will the school remain open all year, and at what point are we not viable?”

Father Jim Hartwell, pastor of Immaculate Conception Church, and ICS Board President Mike Zakel stated that the school was viable for the 2022-2023 school year and would remain open. The future of the school beyond next year depends on retaining the current enrollment and increasing it, they said.

Plans were discussed to rejuvenate the dormant Home & School Association, as a liaison between families and school and the School Board, with a focus of recruitment and reaching out to alumni.

Fifth and sixth grade will both follow a middle school model, as sixth grade has been traditionally doing, with the addition of Family & Consumer Science being added to the curriculum. However, for the first time likely in the school’s history, there will be no seventh and eighth grade this year. “We hope that will be among the changes for 2023-2024, that there will be a seventh grade and then the year after that our middle school will be fully restored,” Dewey said, noting that all ICS teachers are fully certified and experienced.

Parents attending the meeting also noted that tuition is more affordable than widely thought, especially as there are scholarships and financial assistance, and that the Before, and After School Care are “the best deal in town” compared to other local options. The school doors open at 7:20 a.m. and students may arrive at that time. Students report to their classrooms at 7:55 a.m. There is no fee charged for Before School Care. After School Care runs until 4:30 p.m.

Enrollment is open and there is still time to enroll your child for Pre-K 3, Pre-K 4, and kindergarten through sixth grade. Call the school at (585) 593-5840 to learn more about the school or visit the school website, https://www.icc-ics.org/.

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