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June 11, 2014

Jim Goodness
(973) 497-4186
(973) 202-2317 (Cell)

Immaculate Conception High School, Montclair, to Close in June

Immaculate Conception High School, Montclair, a co-ed Catholic high school operating under the sponsorship of the Archdiocese of Newark, will permanently cease operations at the end of the current school year, June 30, 2014.   The school is located at 33 Cottage Place, Montclair. 

In a letter to the principal of Immaculate Conception which was forwarded to parents, Margaret M. Dames, Ed.D., Archdiocesan Secretary of Catholic Education and Superintendent of Schools, stated: “The primary reason for this decision is the combination of a steady decline in enrollment at the school over the past decade and continuously growing debt” that could only impair the ability of the school to offer a quality education program to its students.   “Each of these conditions on its own could be sufficient to cause concern,” she added, “but together they create an environment that the school cannot overcome without extreme actions.”

In September 2004, enrollment at Immaculate Conception High School was 309.   In every school year since then through 2013, the school lost students; enrollment reached a low of 145 in September 2012.  A temporary increase that incorporated the addition of eight students from the former Marylawn of the Oranges school in September 2013 raised the enrollment to 173 for that year.  However, enrollment for September 2014, based on the current number of returning students and the number of registered freshmen, was expected to reach only about 155.

Low enrollment is directly responsible for the accumulation of debt.   The school currently has a long-term accumulated debt of $917,329, due primarily to its inability to pay for insurance, pensions and health care for its employees. The Archdiocese has continuously provided funds to meet this shortfall between revenue and expenses each year.

Upon reviewing the 2014-2015 budget over the past month, Archdiocesan
Schools Office and Finance Staff determined this week that maintaining the school’s program without massive changes in enrollment would only result in the school continuing to incur a large debt, which would increase total liabilities to more than $1.2 million.  

In her letter to parents announcing the closure of Immaculate Conception High School, Principal Jo Ann Degnan wrote: “Everything we can do to support your children through this closure will be done.” 

In commenting on the closure, Dr. Dames said that “many Catholic schools both in the Archdiocese and throughout the country have struggled to find solutions to the challenges of stabilizing and increasing enrollment and augmenting the traditional forms of obtaining revenue for a school’s operation – tuition, donations and fundraising.    Without a large increase in number of students needed to maintain affordable levels of tuition, Immaculate Conception would have had no choice but to raise tuition to a level that would have been prohibitive to many families.  Such a move would have contributed heavily toward a further loss in students, and further damage the school’s ability to meet its financial obligations.”

Although the administration and staff of Immaculate Conception High School did undertake significant efforts to boost enrollment in recent years, the hoped for increases in numbers of new students to the school have not occurred.

The Archdiocesan Schools Office will assist in ensuring a smooth transition for Immaculate Conception’s students to new Catholic high schools in time for September 2014. Representatives from a number of other Catholic high schools will gather in Immaculate Conception’s gymnasium beginning at 7 p.m. on Monday evening, June 16 to introduce their programs to parents and students, and answer questions about the process of transitioning to their schools in September.  The Archdiocesan Schools Office also will work with parents of students who had enrolled as freshmen to assist with the transition to other schools.

A process already exists to assist teachers who wish to continue teaching in Catholic schools in the Archdiocese.

Immaculate Conception High School opened in 1925 as a parish high school serving young Catholic men and women in the surrounding area.    In the years since, it had broadened its mission and currently serves young people from many communities in Essex, Passaic and Union Counties.  In 2004, Immaculate Conception High School became a private Catholic school governed by a Board of Trustees. 

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