Sept. 8, 2020 By Allie Griffin
A Catholic elementary school in Astoria has hired a new principal with deep ties to the institution who is tasked with reopening the school in the midst of the pandemic.
Immaculate Conception Catholic Academy, located at 21-63 29th St, has named Brother Joseph Rocco as its new principal. Rocco is a former student of the school.
Rocco said he is ecstatic to return to his alma mater.
“I graduated from Immaculate Conception years ago and I’m very happy to be back,” he said.
Rocco had most recently served as president of Monsignor McClancy Memorial High School in Jackson Heights for nearly 20 years.
The new principal, who graduated Immaculate Conception in 1962, will lead the school into an unprecedented academic year amid the coronavirus pandemic, but his more 40 years working as an administrator has prepared him for the great task.
He put together a committee two months ago–comprised of school administrators, teachers and parents–who have worked on a reopening plan.
Rocco’s comprehensive plan is focused on student and facility safety, such as the wearing of masks, social distancing, hand hygiene and routine disinfecting. The plan was approved by the Brooklyn Diocese, New York State Education Department and the New York State Department of Health.
Immaculate Conception Catholic Academy will have in-person classes for all students five days a week, beginning Sept. 14. Students will return this week for one day of orientation — on days staggered by grade level.
Parents can also choose to keep their children home for full remote learning, Rocco said.
The large size of the school building, which was built in 1951 and extended in 1965, will prove hugely beneficial for the school’s roughly 200 students who must remain socially distant to prevent the spread of the virus, Rocco said.
The building at one time held classes for a student body of 1,300 children, he added.
“We can easily social distance,” Rocco said. “Our classrooms are large.”
The Catholic Academy will also require students and staff to wear face masks and perform frequent cleaning and sanitizing. Hand sanitizing stations will also be set up throughout the school building.
Brother Rocco has set a number of goals to accomplish during his tenure at Immaculate Conception, in addition to ensuring students are safe and healthy amid the pandemic.
He hopes to increase enrollment and focus on the junior high school program, which competes with nearby charter schools.
“One of my goals is to strengthen the junior high program at the school,” Rocco said. “Make it very competitive with the charter schools that are going [up] around us.”
Immaculate Conception Catholic Academy is ideally located in Astoria near the the Ditmars Boulevard train station and offers working parents the option of early drop off in the morning, as well as an after school program and early childhood classes.
Rocco wants to further develop the academy’s after school program by adding more extracurricular activities, cultural experiences, sports and homework help.
Lastly, Rocco aims to engage students in Catholicism and encourage them to participate at the parish during his tenure.
“I also want to have greater collaboration with the parish church here, Immaculate Conception parish, and have the kids develop their spirituality.”
Rocco said Immaculate Conception stands out from other academies with its dedicated faculty and staff, a supportive parish and a tight-knit school community with parents who are involved.
“We are a very family-orientated school,” he said. “It’s a wonderful school community.”
The academy’s mission is to provide every child with a safe and nurturing environment that facilitates a love of learning as well as a love for God, others, and self.
Students from Immaculate Conception go on to high school at Monsignor McClancy Memorial High School, St. John’s Preparatory School, Mary Louis Academy, St. Agnes Academic High School among others in both Queens and Manhattan.
For more information, please click here