NEWBURYPORT — The Immaculate Conception School is preparing to welcome more than 265 students on Tuesday.

The red brick building at the corner of Washington and Green streets is the present site of the 1882 school founded by the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth. Students from Newburyport and surrounding towns attend grades prekindergarten through grade 8.

Teacher and administration professional growth, along with continuing improvements to the physical aspects of the school, smooth the way to a new year of learning and growing after a summer of preparations and renovations.

In the gymnasium, a state-of-the-art wireless sound system and acoustical panels will now provide a modern venue for the Theatre Program initiated under Principal Mary Reardon. The annual Christmas Show, band performances, Academic Enrichment presentations, fundraising and special occasions will be enhanced due to the upgrade of the sound delivery and reverberation control.

The gym had a total make-over of maple flooring, lighting and bleachers in 2008 through a generous grant by benefactor and IC alumni Curt Gerrrish. This latest investment completes the transformation of the 60-year-old space.

The IC gymnasium is utilized for school-wide assembly, drama, music and hundreds of hours of basketball for the school and community use. Local special education programs are held on the weekends and IC students volunteer to join the participants in games of every kind.

In July, the Rev. Timothy J. Harrison, pastor at Immaculate Conception Parish, joined Reardon in a two-day seminar held by the Lynch School of Education at Boston College. The conference, Celebrating the Mission Together, explored the mission, vision and call to excellence in Catholic education.

Presenters included Loyola University's Dr. Lorraine Ozar on the topic of "Leading Irresistible Catholic Schools." Author Dr. Thomas Groome of BC focused on "Maintaining the Catholic Identity of Our Schools." This seminar is a prelude to the National Catholic Education Convention to be held in Boston from April 11 to 13, 2012.

Reardon also enrolled in a course, Facing History and Ourselves. Focused on immigration, citizenship and belonging to society, the subject matter supports the IC school mission for respect, awareness and empathy for the needs of all people.

The entire staff at Immaculate Conception returns for this academic year and will continue to advance their use of technology in the classroom and curriculum. Sister Mary Braley, from the school's founding religious order, will begin her 37th year at IC teaching grade 2. Teacher Erin Newman enrolled in a Responsive Classroom course for her kindergarten class, and both full-time kindergarten classrooms have been refurbished with new paint, tiled floors and total remodeling of bathrooms and lighting. The entire learning space for grades 5 to 8 had carpeting replaced.

ICS is completing its five-year review for New England Association of Schools and Colleges Accreditation. The school has held this accreditation since 1999.

A recent tradition of a back-to-school barbecue will be held on the first day of school for school families. For many, this will be the first viewing of the summer renovations.

Many members of the Greater Newburyport community can see these improvements at the Annual High School Night sponsored by Immaculate Conception School and attended by more than 40 regional private, parochial and public high school representatives. This year's event will be held on Sept. 29 from 6:30 to 8 p.m.

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