HOPEWELL, VA (WWBT) – A local school is making big changes in an effort to keep its doors open.
West End Christian School is struggling with low enrollment and a falloff in donations. Now, control of the school is being handed over in hopes of keeping it afloat.
West End Presbyterian Church has operated the school for 60 years. It has decided to give authority of the school to a newly formed group called the West End Christian School Ministry Task Force.
The group is comprised of seven people including, teachers, former students, parents and volunteers like Billy Mitchell.
"All of the operations, everything the school does will be under our control pass or fail," said Mitchell.
A few months ago, the school announced it may have to shut down due to a drastic drop in donations and enrollment. Back then, enrollment stood at 140 students. Right now, 99 students are enrolled to attend this upcoming school year.
"We're going to concentrate on fundraising and try to increase donor base in the community that hasn't been a focal point in the past," said task force member and parent, Karen Hanzlik.
As part of the change in authority debt acquired while the church operated the school will be the responsibility of the church.
"Our debt will be created when we take over completely," said Mitchell.
But the task force is already working to minimize possible debt. The group is looking at ways to make cuts.
"The budget in previous years was overhead heavy so we're looking at cutting overhead costs - things such as copier leases, maintenance on the building that sort of thing," said Hanzlik.
Teachers could also be let go.
"We'd like to keep all teachers if possible but that will be based on enrollment and donations," said Hanzlik.
For now, West End Christian School will remain open. The task force hopes to keep it that way for many years to come.
"This is going to work. We don't need a next step, this is going to work," said Hanzlik.
The church is also giving the task force free rent on the school building for the first year. Members of the group say they will have their non-profit status within a few weeks.