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Funding woes, dwindling enrollments cause five Christian schools to close

At least five Christian schools associated with Churches of Christ — one in Michigan, one in Florida and three in Ohio — shut their doors this school year.
School officials cited funding woes, the struggling economy and dwindling enrollment as reasons for the closures.
“I think the recent closures show just how hard it is to operate a Christian school in a geographical area where the Churches of Christ have been historically small,” said Philip Patterson, president of the National Christian School Association in Oklahoma City.
“While our numbers are down … it’s interesting to note that a few schools in both Texas and Tennessee had record enrollments, and many more had waiting lists in selective grades,” Patterson added. “The problem seems to be city-by-city based on the economy of that community.”
Among the closed schools:
• In Burton, Mich., a suburb of Flint, Valley Christian Academy educated generations of youth. But after 29 years, it closed, principal Sam Pace said. “Obviously, we are quite disappointed,” he said.
Last spring, he told The Christian Chronicle, “We are in financial despair.” In the end, cost-cutting measures, staff layoffs and fund-raising efforts failed to save the school.
From a high of 300 students nearly 10 years ago, the school’s enrollment numbers steadily diminished. The last school year ended with 103 students in prekindergarten through 12th grade.
Widespread unemployment has made it difficult for many families to keep paying private tuition rates. Valley Christian was the only K-12 school in Michigan associated with Churches of Christ.
At the 32-year-old Stark County Christian Academy in Canton, Ohio, principal Ellie Burfield blamed the school’s closure on low enrollment and financial troubles, caused by an area unemployment rate of 12.4 percent.
“We prayed that we would close out without owing any money and with a good attitude,” Burfield said. “We met our goals, and we have had a positive impact on Stark County.” The school, which served kindergarten through second grade, had 38 students last year.
In Pleasant Plains, Ohio, near Cincinnati, the community-based part of the 15-year-old Village Christian School closed. Barry Boverie, administrator of Mid-Western Christian Home, where the school was located, said the home’s program for behaviorally challenged, special-education students still operates. It includes students from the community and children in the home.
Down from a peak of 170 students several years ago, the school had 90 students enrolled last year.
In Miami, the 49-year-old Tropical Christian School was forced to close because of low enrollment and funding woes, said Paco Perez, board of trustees president. The school — which began as Atlantic Christian High School in 1960 — had operated since 1991 in the Sunset Church of Christ building, where church members looked on the school as a ministry, Perez said.
The increasing popularity of charter schools — public school alternatives that don’t charge tuition— also drew some of the students away, he said. “You need a strong church community to draw from, and Sunset was the only Church of Christ supporting the school,” said principal Julie Bergman.
Central Ohio Christian School in Westerfield, Ohio, a suburb of Columbus, did not open this fall.
“It may not reopen next fall,” said Randy Weier, minister of the Spring Road church in Westerfield and chairman of the school’s board. “We’re not down yet, but it doesn’t look good.”
After meeting in the Northland church building in Columbus for 22 years, the school moved out last June, following notice that the church planned to raise the rent. Decreasing enrollment caused by area unemployment and strong competition from charter schools also contributed to the closing, he said.
From a high of 130 students eight years ago, the enrollment had slipped to 80 students.

  • Feedback
    Pacific Christian Academy, established in 1918, is in need of assistance. We need your help. I am here volunteering as a mission worker to help save this goodly pearl of a school. I just attended the Pepperdine lectures and put out a call for help there. Please, PLEASE consider doing an article for us as soon as possible. Please call me at 706-618-2700. My name is Vincent Boling. See Pacific Christian Academy on FACEBOOK. Thank you and please pray for us.
    vincent boling
    graton church of Christ
    graton, california
    May, 10 2010

    It’s sad to see these schools closing. I know they’ve been so important to the spiritual development of so many young people throughout the years.
    What is worse though, is that many “Christian” schools lower their moral standards, and take on worldly values in the interest of becoming bigger and more financially successful.
    If a school has to “straddle the fence” to keep it’s doors open, it would be better off closed.
    Barry Bentley
    Holly Springs
    Searcy , AR
    November, 2 2009

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