Amid serious financial woes, the Alexandria Academy is suspending operations for the foreseeable future as parents scramble to find new schools for their children.
We dont have a school, its a very sad situation and many boys and girls are crying. We have children that are devastated, said Ann Henshaw, president of the private schools parent association. My child started school, began to make friends and two-thirds of the way through its over.
Parents learned of the decision Wednesday night. They had known of the academys financial troubles for several weeks as officials struggled to secure enough money to keep the doors open through the end of the school year.
But in a letter sent to parents Thursday morning, founder and former headmaster T.R. Ahlstrom pledged to continue teaching classes, even though the schools teachers were let go.
There may be no other teachers there. We have had to lay them off. There may be no students there. But I will be there and, LORD willing, I will be their every day for the rest of term. I may not be good at shuffling papers and I am certainly not a gifted fundraiser but I can teach, Ahlstrom wrote. To parents, teachers, friends and neighbors I say this. If you share my belief that finishing this year for our young scholars is all important, I invite your help and support. You wont be paid. We have no money. But you will be rewarded.
Ron Klink, a member on the Fund for Classical Educations board that ran the South Washington Street academy, said the decision came after officials exhausted efforts to find new funding.
There were tears shed, it was a very difficult decision, Klink said. We knew in the last few weeks that it was coming down to decision time, but we redoubled every effort we could.
Just days before classes began at the academy a major donor backed out, he said. Emboldened by the schools curriculum, which is based on grammar, logic and rhetoric, and with students already enrolled, supporters decided to push ahead. They expected community groups and philanthropists to latch onto the concept, getting them through the academys inaugural year.
That never happened, Klink said.
We had to make a decisions and at this point in time we had already enrolled students. Maybe that was when we made our mistake, Klink said. We decided, lets forge ahead.
The fund remains active and is in the process of paying back its creditors, he said. Theyve suspended the academys operations until they can recover and try again in a year or two though maybe not in Alexandria, according to Klink.
Henshaw worries students will have a tough time accepting the school has, for all intents and purposes, shuttered its doors. They need closure, she said.
Busy trying to find new schools for the academys students, Henshaw praised the community at large for their understanding of the parents plight. Many of the regions private schools have long since stopped accepting applications for the coming year, she said, though accommodations are being made.
Still, Henshaw believes the region has lost a unique and much needed educational model.
We dont lack schools, but we do lack a classical education and now we [are going to] continue to lack it, she said. There was some good stuff going on in that school.