St. Mary /IC School announces closing

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St. Mary Immaculate Conception School in Guttenberg will not be open for the fall term. (Press photo by Shelia Tomkins)

By Shelia Tomkins

Citing a lack of qualified teachers, St. Mary Immaculate Conception School in Guttenberg last week announced its closing in a letter to parents.

The school, which serves students from pre-kindergarten through the eighth grade, had recently hired a new principal, Angela Jones, and was preparing for the fall opening when the decision was made at a meeting of the school board last week.

The letter sent to parents read, in part:

"On Thursday, Aug. 4, the school board met to finalize plans for the upcoming school year. As you are aware, we have been working diligently to find certified teachers to fill our staff. At this time, we have only one licensed teacher contracted to serve our school. Father Bries, the school board, community members, and

Mrs. Jones have worked tirelessly to help us secure teachers. Mrs. Jones has followed up on every lead and has gone above and beyond to find additional teachers.

"Unfortunately, there are no additional teachers available. The weight of this decision is heavy on our hearts. Recognizing how important your children are we cannot in good conscience offer a program that is not of high

quality just to keep the school open. Therefore, it is with great sadness we announce St. Mary Immaculate Conception School will be unable to serve students this school year and will close. We are unable to offer a high quality Catholic education that maintains the standard of excellence on which St. Mary’s was built."

The letter went on the list options for families who wanted to pursue a Catholic education at nearby schools, including LaSalle in Holy Cross, Xavier in Dyersville for elementary and Beckman in Dyersville for high school. 

The letter was signed by Fr. Marvin Bries, school board president Stephanie Goedken and Principal Angela Jones. 

Prior to the announcement, classes were scheduled to begin Aug. 23.

St. Mary's has offered a parochial school education to local students for nearly 170 years, beginning in 1853. The last high school graduating class was in 1968; the school then offered classes through the eighth grade. The school has been sustained by the parishes of St. Mary's in Guttenberg, Immaculate Conception in North Buena Vista and St. Joseph's Church, Garnavillo. 

Superintendent Shane Wahls of Clayton Ridge Community School commented on the closure, “This is a difficult time in education with a teacher shortage that all schools are experiencing, and closing a private or public school is devastating.  Over the years, Clayton Ridge has collaborated with St. Mary’s, and I know that they provided a high quality education to their students. At this time, Clayton Ridge would like to extend a warm welcome to the St. Mary’s  families, and we look forward to serving their students.”

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