Faced with mounting debt, several years of declining enrollment and waning community support, the decision to close was made by the school’s board of directors in early April, said board President Karen Lockwood.
“We tried everything,” Lockwood said. “We’ve been fighting it as long as we could.”
The school, located at 9393 Glen Arbor Road, in Ben Lomond, was founded as a co-operative in 1972 by community members after fundraising efforts were matched with a grant from Santa Cruz County.
“Little grandmas would send in their 20 dollars,” Lockwood said of the school’s initial fundraising efforts.
Since then, Lockwood said, hundreds of students have come through the school — many of whom grew up and enrolled their own children to the school.
In recent years, however, the school’s population has trended sharply downward.
When Kate Pratt, one of four teachers on the school’s staff, first began teaching at the school in 2003, she said there were about 35 students enrolled.
On Monday, there were 15.
The sluggish economy and poor jobs market contributed to the decrease in interest, as did other factors.
“It was a slow decline,” Pratt said. “Families with at least one parent at home don’t need child care.”
Lockwood said that Glen Arbor School’s enrollment woes do not represent an isolated case — rather it is a portrayal of the grim reality facing preschools and child care facilities throughout the county. She said many are operating at less than half their student capacity.
The decision to close the school came after a string of fundraising efforts, including rummage sales and direct mail appeals, achieved little success.
“There was no community response, which was really sad,” Pratt said.
On its final day Tuesday, April 30, current students, parents and alumni were scheduled to celebrate a graduation accompanied by a potluck.
Lockwood said the school’s supplies and equipment would be sold off, with teachers and education centers being offered first pick during a sale from 3 to 6 p.m. Friday, May 3, at the school.
The proceeds will be used to pay the school’s debts, Lockwood said.
“Any money left over from the sale and bills will be reinvested in the community,” she said. “It’s really sad that the community is losing this. But we have a lot of debt, and we can’t do it anymore.”
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