Catholic school works on new home

The 82 students enrolled at Immaculate Conception Catholic School last year shared one bathroom.


The Laney-Walker Boulevard campus has four buildings, the newest of which was built in 1958.

"It's pretty obviously outdated," said Ed Belinski, the school's assistant principal and development director.

That's why, after 96 years, Immaculate Conception is moving.

The school will reopen in the fall at 811 Telfair St., in the former Baird Building across from the Church of the Most Holy Trinity.

The school's pre-kindergarten, kindergarten and first grade classes will occupy part of the first floor next to existing church offices, which will remain.

Elementary school students will occupy the second floor, while middle school students occupy the third floor.

"There's a big kitchen and cafeteria area. It also has a stage. It's just perfect for a school," said the Rev. Timothy Donahue, pastor of Most Holy Trinity, which sponsors the school.

Renovations are under way to install a sprinkler system and enlarge bathrooms and a few classrooms.

"To renovate Immaculate Conception at its current location was $5-or-6 million, or we could spend $500,000 to renovate the Baird building," the Rev. Donahue said. "It was the better decision."

The church took out a loan and is offsetting the cost with donations.

"We'll have a lot better security, better communication and presence with the church. The electrical, phone and computer systems will be better," Mr. Belinski said.

The move is likely to drive enrollment. By the end of the year, Immaculate Conception hopes to have 120 students on its rolls. While tuition is the lowest for any private school in Augusta, the rate will increase from a range of $3,200-$3,500 to $3,600-$3,900.

The original campus will be placed for sale.

"Some people would like to see it turned into a museum," Mr. Belinski said, which would be fitting, given the school's history.

In 1902, Franciscan sisters opened an orphanage at 12th Street and Laney-Walker Boulevard to care for black children.

In 1913, the African Mission Fathers built Immaculate Conception Church a block away and invited the sisters to bring the boarding school. The school has operated there ever since.

"It could be a monument for the educational opportunities of African-American students," Mr. Belinski said.

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