Christ Episcopal School in Rockville, on the brink of being shut down, has launched an ambitious fundraising campaign to make up for pandemic-related losses.
The school is trying to raise $800,000 in December and January, or risk having to close in June, Acting Head of School Nicole Stone said.
Enrollment is now at 107 students, up from 101 in December. Christ Episcopal School is trying to recruit to get its enrollment to 150 students.
The school is facing a substantial deficit as enrollment drops. Stone said the last two graduating classes were larger than average, but enrollment numbers have fallen during the pandemic.
The fundraising started Dec. 15. People have since pledged $228,000 against the $800,000 goal.
The school is also continuing to raise money for its annual fund.
More than 30 parents are involved in the new fundraising effort, which ranges from trying to get companies to sponsor students’ educations to recruiting more students to attend.
The school’s financial situation highlights a dilemma independent schools face during the pandemic: open for in-person classes or risk decreasing enrollment numbers.
Christ Episcopal School went virtual mid-March, and lost 25 to 30 percent of its enrollment, Stone said. The majority of preschool students left, as remote learning doesn’t work well at that age.
All of the middle schoolers continued on, and the school offered live online classes each day.
In the fall, as COVID-19 case numbers increased, the school tried to be “socially responsible,” Stone said, and stayed virtual until October.
“We missed out on those families that were looking for an in-person option at that point,” Stone said.
In October, the lower school went to a hybrid of in-person and remote learning. The middle school will follow that model within the next two weeks. Then, instruction will be fully in person.
Some families have pulled their children out of Montgomery County Public Schools, which have been virtual, and turned to private schools.
In the first week of January, six new students enrolled at Christ Episcopal School.
“There are families who are just realizing that the complete virtual program at home is not working for them,” Stone said.
Stone said the school provides individualized academic attention to each student. Because there are only about 100 students in preschool through eighth grade, teachers know all of them.
Tuition is $21,000 per year. About half of the students are on financial aid.
The Episcopal tradition is to welcome people of all backgrounds, Stone said. Though the school is inside an Episcopalian Church, students of all religions are welcome. About 60 percent of those enrolled are students of color.