David Brainerd Christian School in East Brainerd is closing due to financial difficulties, school officials said Tuesday.
The announcement was made in an email from Stephen Lepley, board chairman, and Headmaster Tom McCullough.
Officials said the school's enrollment suffered a sharp drop due to the country's economic woes as well as the opening of the new East Hamilton School nearby.
The school had considered a merger with one or more local private Christian schools, but officials said there was not time to work that out.
Dr. McCullough said last week that the school grew from 129 students to 222 in five years. However, only about 155 were projected to return for the upcoming school year.
The school was an outgrowth of a school at Brainerd Baptist Church. David Brainerd Christian School was formed in 2002 and Dr. McCullough, who was the longtime Hixson High School principal, became headmaster in 2004.
It occupied a 20-acre campus on Igou Gap Road.
The school had four graduating classes and participated in a number of sports.
There were 26 graduates at recent ceremonies.
Dr. McCullough said other private Christian schools in that area were also facing enrollment challenges due to some of the same causes - including Grace, Boyd Buchanan and Silverdale Baptist.
Silverdale officials said they lost about 11 students to East Hamilton, but it appears they will pick up enough new students to have a net gain.
Here is the letter announcing the closing:
June 9, 2009
Dear Parents and Friends,
It is with great regret that we must inform you that due to low enrollment, David Brainerd Christian School will not be able operate in 2009-2010. We appreciate the patience and commitment of our faculty, staff and those families that are enrolled at DBCS this upcoming year. This is not an easy decision to make. This impacts our faculty, staff, students and families. However, our school is funded primarily through tuition. We do not have a Church or large donor base to fund our operations. As a result, we have been unable to make up the lost revenue we will experience this year with lower enrollment.
We have been working diligently in a number of areas to keep the school operating this upcoming year. We cut faculty and staff. Remaining faculty agreed to reduced salaries. We contacted potential donors that could provide the level of funding that would be required for the upcoming year. We also made arrangements with our bank to modify our financing on the school property which will reduce debt payments. We followed up with any potential applicants to try and increase enrollment. And while all of these efforts bore some fruit, at the end of the day we are not where we need to be in order to operate the school for this year.
While DBCS has been experiencing significant growth over the past years, we were impacted by a number of factors that when combined in the same year, were too significant to overcome. First, we were hit hardest by the economy. With lost income for many of our families, the financial aid needs increased beyond what we can provide. This caused some families to choose a school with lower or no tuition. Second, some families chose to move to the new East Hamilton School. Third, as some families chose other options, remaining families became uneasy about the low enrollment and withdrew their contracts.
An email was distributed regarding a potential merger with another school. While strategically, this merger could benefit DBCS in the long-term, the process to evaluate the merger would take too long.
DBCS has been a special place for many families. We want to thank all of the parents who have devoted so much time to David Brainerd Christian School. We also want to thank the faculty and staff that have been such an important part of this school. We ask that you will keep our faculty and staff in your prayers. While this is a difficult time for parents and students, this is even more difficult for our faculty and staff. For many, this is their livelihood. They have been committed to this school and have been doing all they can to help try and keep the school open.
God has blessed DBCS over the years. And while we may not understand His plan in this situation, we know that He is in control of all things.
For families that need transcripts or other information for their children, please call the school with requests.
Tom McCullough, Ed.D Headmaster