By Chad Frey
Supporters of Newton Christian High School have been praying for the school since it started 19 years ago, but those prayers changed in tone a bit this spring. They started asking God for direction, and quite possibly a miracle.
A miracle in the form of a large financial windfall which would allow the school to remain open.
To date, the miracle hasn’t come to fruition.
“We felt like what we asked for did not materialize,” said principal Cherry Stucky.
As a result, the school is set to close at the end of this school year, and assets will be sold off to pay debts.
“No one wants to close the school,” said board member Russ Schroeder. “But we can’t continue to operate the way we have financially and honor God.”
The school, which employs seven people, has seen enrollment dwindle. This year there is no senior class and only eight full-time students and one part-time student.
As the year wore on, the school had a harder and harder time meeting financial commitments. The board started asking the question of “how do we do education right?”
They looked at their needs — not only to meet the monthly ledger but what it would take to continue in the future, and how to promote the school.
“We talked about what we would need to do this summer to let people know we are here, and having a solid platform to promote ourselves,” Stucky said.
Up until just a few weeks ago, Stucky was talking with other schools and colleges about agreements for students to take advanced classes. She was speaking to prospective students and their parents.
But those things stopped, as the board chose a different path. Barring a a miracle within the next few weeks, the school will close.
“Our parents have been supportive,” Stucky said. “This was a very difficult decision.”
The school was founded 19 years ago at Garden Plains Methodist Church — north of Newton on K-15. Until the end of the 2010-11 school year, the school operated at the church.
But things changed.
“The leadership of Great Plains that helped start the school had left,” Stucky said. “There began to be a different view of what they wanted to do with the building. ... We were not living in our own home.”
A decision was made last spring to move the school to an empty building at 208 Meridian in Newton.
As it turns out, the school will only be open one year in the facility.
“We had a real transition year with a move from North Newton to here,” Stucky said. “We had a lower population, and we have been challenged in how to promote ourselves.”
That, it seems was a theme this year — one the board was concerned about as they discussed how the school could better promote itself to prospective students and their parents.
Meanwhile, the cost of everything has gone up — much as it has for anyone living in the current economy.
A low student base, and increasing expenses, ultimately led to the school not meeting the monthly financial obligations.
“Everything has gotten more expensive for operation,” Schroeder said. “Selling cookies and candy bars just can’t cover it all.
The board chose to make a decision early —allowing parents more time to make a decision about where their kids will be come fall. There are other Christian High Schools — Elyeria Christian is about 20 miles from Newton, as is Berean Academy in Elbing.
“It would take a significant resource base to start on sound footing, promote us well in the summer and attract a larger student base,” Stucky said. “For that, we would need to find a significant donor or a grant.”
Newton Christian High School to close
By Chad Frey