Parents must raise money to keep Windrush School open

September 30, 2011 5:57:02 PM PDT
A private school in the East Bay is in a desperate race to keep its doors open, and is asking parents to come up with a shocking amount of money as soon as possible.

Windrush School in El Cerrito needs to come up with nearly $1 million by the October deadline, otherwise they will have to close by the end of next month. When you think of how long the nation's economic recovery has taken, it's no surprise that some private schools are having a hard time staying afloat.

The state-of-the-art building was supposed to house a growing population of students at Windrush School in El Cerrito. Instead, the recession and the ongoing economic crisis have gravely affected enrollment.

"Since we borrowed the money, the economy and the recession have just been really, really difficult for the school. This is a school that didn't have an endowment at the time and it still doesn't," said Ilana Kaufman, the head of school.

Windrush School is now having problems paying down a $13 million bond used to build a new middle school and make other general improvements. When plans to expand the school were made before the recession, the board estimated it would have close to 300 students; today there are only 165. The school relies mainly on money from tuition which is $20,000 a year per student.

"A number of those families moved, either moved into public school districts that they deemed would be best for their children or moved across the country," said David Bond, the director of admissions.

According to the school, those who moved out of the Bay Area were following the jobs. Under financial pressure, the school was not able to offer financial aid scholarships to many of them. The school was not successful at negotiating the terms of the loan.

"We found out a week ago today that the bond holders no longer intend to work with us and they wanted to foreclose on our property," said Kaufman.

"Ahh, I'm heartbroken at the thought. My kids love it here, they've both thrived here, it's such a happy, warm, wonderful place. I am heartbroken at the thought that it won't be here," said Nina McDonald, a parent.

Windrush isn't the only private school to feel the impact of the slow economic recovery. The National Independent School Association in Washington D.C. represents more than 1,400 private schools in the United States. According to a report, during the six recessions since 1969, private school enrollment and giving remained steady, expect for this last recession.

So far parents have raised $300,000 and on Friday afternoon, the school received a pledge from an anonymous donor. This person will give $250,000, if the school community is able to match that amount. Again, they need close to a million to remain open this year.


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