NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — The community is attempting to raise $500,000 to keep a longstanding Christian school in Hilton Village open for future generations.
After 71 years, St. Andrew’s Episcopal School notified parents by email on March 23 of their June 8 closure. The vote was unanimous.
“It is with an extremely heavy heart that we are reaching out to you about recent developments regarding our enrollment and financial sustainability challenges,” the letter reads. “In spite of our valiant efforts, it has become clear to us that the school is unable to meet the financial obligations necessary to fulfill our mission.”
Parents say about 70 students currently attend the school, which serves pre-K through 5th grade. In the past, they say more than 200 students attended each year.
“It’s part of Newport News,” said Haley Hanlon, a mother with two kids who attend the school. “It’s part of Newport News’ legacy.”
Hanlon and other parents, alumni and community members are now asking for pledges as they try to gauge the support for a fundraiser backed by the school board.
The goal is $500,000, but parents say $380,000 could get the school board to reverse their decision.
“I really care about the values that we are giving the children that are perpetuated five days a week, not just on Sunday morning for an hour,” said Vicki Lanier, a former student, teacher and board member. “I never stopped caring about this church.”
The school is part of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, founded in 1919, on Main Street in Hilton Village.
Parents say, quite simply, it feels like home.
“In a world that’s gone crazy, that many times feels like it’s upside down, this is something that is true and real,” said Hanlon.
Parents say shock and panic set in when they received the email from school officials. The email was sent with a sheet filled with schools in the area.
“Honestly, I burst into tears,” said Morgan Zinn, who admits the fundraising goal is ambitious. “It might not work. We are going to see what God is going to do, but we are just going to try our best and pray and hope.”
Zinn says the fundraiser, if successful, could buy the school more time to make a turnaround.
In the closure letter, the school states they recently identified new initiatives. Parents believe one particular program that caters to students with dyslexia could boost enrollment.
“It just seems that after 71 years, there could be 71 more years of people’s lives being touched.”