First came shock and grief. Now comes the scramble for a new school.
More than 130 current and incoming students at Immaculata Academy and their families are looking for a new high school in the fall, after the school announced it would close after 88 years of educating young women.
The closing could affect public schools in Hamburg and nearby towns, as well as Catholic and private high schools such as Mount Mercy Academy in South Buffalo, the closest all-girls Catholic high school to the school on South Park Avenue.
“The students are all exploring their options,” said Kimberlee Marciniak, director of marketing and communications for the school.
The school has invited representatives from Catholic and private schools to come to a meeting later this month. Each school will have 15 to 20 minutes to explain their programs to students and their parents, Marciniak said. Members of what was to be the incoming freshman class also are invited to the information evening. The school sent acceptance letters to eighth-graders in January.
“People are trying to get plans in order for next year,” she said. “We’re seeing interest all over the place.”
Students come from throughout the area, but many live in the Southtowns.
Mount Mercy Academy on Red Jacket Parkway in Buffalo can accommodate all the girls at Immaculata, said President Margaret M. Cronin.
“We appreciate the sad time it is for them,” she said. “This first week, we’re doing a little balancing act. We want to respect they are in a grief process right now. We don’t want to come at them in this time of grief.”
But a number of families have contacted the school, and there are some students “shadowing” at Mount Mercy this week, she said. The school will do whatever the families need to make the transition as smooth as possible, she said.
“Immaculata and Mercy share a lot of the same values,” Cronin said. “We want to make sure both the girls and their families know they have a soft place to land.”
Frontier Central Superintendent Bret Apthorpe said there are 24 students living in the district who attend Immaculata, including three who are seniors and will be in the last graduating class of the school May 23.
Apthorpe said several parents have contacted the district’s transportation office to ask about busing to Mount Mercy.
Twenty to 30 girls from the nearby Hamburg Central School District attend Immaculata.
“I do feel bad for the families of Immaculata. I’m sure they feel an enormous sense of loss,” Hamburg Superintendent Michael Cornell said. “If any of them choose Hamburg, I hope we can positively affect their lives.”
Lake Shore Central transports 12 students to Immaculata. Superintendent James Przepasniak said the district is sending a letter to parents offering them the opportunity to visit the high school before they decide on plans for September.
Lake Shore, and most other districts, will bus students to a private school if it is within 15 miles of the student’s home. But requests for transportation are usually due in the spring, and districts may have different policies.
“I would advise parents to please check with their home district,” he said.