Enrollment at St. James Episcopal School plummets, forcing closure
The church has also opened a day care center in its remodeled office building.
St. James Episcopal School, at 38 S. Halifax Drive, closed right before classes were set to start Aug. 19, forcing parents of 42 children to find another school.
The reason for the last-minute decision, according to the director, Rev. Jim Harris, was that administration was holding out hope until the last minute that they would be able to boost enrollment enough to continue operations.
But enrollment dropped rapidly, Harris said, from 110 students enrolled in July to 42 enrolled a week before classes were set to start.
“It kept dropping, but we were saying, ‘We can make it, we can make it.’ And then four students dropped out the week before school was set to start,” he said.
It became unfeasible to continue the school. Harris did not comment on possible reasons for the rapid decline.
“It’s a sad day,” he said. “We’ve been in the community a long time.”
The church closed its middle school in July, after enrollment dropped to 26. Last spring, there were 143 total students in the grade school and middle school combined.
Silver lining: new day care
In a move unrelated to the school closing, St. James Episcopal Church has opened a new child-care center in its building at the corner of Casements Drive and South Halifax Drive.
“This is a completely new chapter in our ministry,” Rev. Harris said.
Tracy Anderson, co-director of the facility along with Nancy Vaughn, said the building formerly contained church offices and was remodeled over the summer.
“Offices were taken out, larger rooms were put in,” she said. "This was a dream we’ve had for a long time. Finally, last spring, we decided we had the funding for it. We saw the need in the community for affordable care in a loving, Christian environment.”
The day care will accept children 6 weeks old through 4 years. The charge for all children will be $150 per week. Parents can drop off children as early as 7 a.m. and pick up as late as 6 p.m.
As for activities and equipment, staff will host a “circle time” with stories and singing, there will be play equipment, training in motor skills, outdoor play, reading, musical instruments and praying.
“We pray here,” Vaughn said. “Before meals and nap time, we pray.”