For the first time in years, St. Cecilia may offer classes for 6th-graders this fall

Phillip Sitter
Ames Tribune

St. Cecilia School's principal won't know for certain for a few more weeks that her building will be home to a sixth grade in the fall, but she is confident that there will be.

"If we’ve got the number of students to make it a go, we’ll make it a go," Sara Rooney said of the prospects of Ames' Catholic elementary school adding more grade levels ye this calendar year.

Rooney said the school, which is part of the St. Cecilia Church, currently has 164 students enrolled in preschool through fifth grade. Most students come from Ames or Gilbert, and those public school systems are the ones most go to after fifth grade, she said.

She said the pandemic hit St. Cecelia's preschool particularly hard — with it not being compulsory, many families decided to keep their 3- and 4-year-olds home — but enrollment's on the rise and the school picked up some K-5 students when Ames' public schools were online only.

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St. Cecilia was built to house a sixth grade, and Rooney said the idea of bringing it back is not a new one. She said the school used to teach students through the eighth grade when it operated out of its original location, at 122 N Oak Ave., which opened in 1925. Classes moved to the school's current location in 1995.

With 35 students in the current fifth-grade class, she said even if only half stay on to continue at St. Cecilia, “that’s still a decent number of students to have a single section.”

Rooney said the school's staff are "almost 100% certain" that there will be a sixth grade, but that they'll know for sure come February, when commitment forms are due.

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In addition to already having the physical space for an additional grade, she said staffing should also be able to easily accommodate it, with all staff already certified to teach grades kindergarten through sixth grade.

"We wouldn’t have to hire anybody."

Adding seventh- and eighth-grade instruction would take more time to figure out, Rooney said, pointing to the school's need to ensure it had the staff and space for those classes.

"We don't have the space here right now," Rooney said, and there's no space available to easily add-on.

Going off-site would also require approval from the Archdiocese of Dubuque, she said.

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Phillip Sitter covers education for the Ames Tribune, including Iowa State University and PreK-12 schools in Ames and elsewhere in Story County. Phillip can be reached via email at psitter@gannett.com. He is on Twitter @pslifeisabeauty.