By Cheryl Splain, KnoxPages.com reporter
MOUNT VERNON - Efforts to raise enough money to keep Mount Vernon Academy operational have failed, leaving no option but to close the doors at the end of this school year.
The Seventh-day Adventist boarding school needed to raise $3 million to cover operational costs for the 2015-16 school year; $1.5 million was to be raised by Feb. 10. As of , only $17,069 was raised. Heidi Shoemaker, director of communications for the Ohio Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, said the news was shared with students, faculty and staff .
Financial issues came to light when the school could not make payroll in August 2014. In order to cover the school’s immediate financial needs, the Ohio Conference took out a $700,000 loan. The school’s Alumni Association has made the interest payments on the loan. In an update to Ohio Conference members , President Ron Halvorsen Jr. wrote that “during the last months, I have discovered that MVA has traveled this difficult road repeatedly for more than 30 years and even had a special constituency meeting about their future in 1984. I believed we had time to work out a solution; this was not the case.”
Halvorsen said the next step is to create two committees: one to oversee and care for the MVA campus and land and the other to explore ways to have more Ohio Conference students receive an Adventist education. “Secondary education will continue to be a part of the big picture for ministry in Ohio, but we will have to do it differently,” he wrote. “Though there are fewer school-aged students in our Ohio families, we want to see more of them receive an Adventist education. In order to make this a reality, we will look to collaborate with more of our ministries to create avenues of support for secondary education.”
The $17,069 raised to date and any money raised in the future will be used to help students who want to continue their Adventist secondary education. Seventeen other schools in Ohio provide Adventist education, but only one, Spring Valley Academy in Dayton, provides secondary education for grades nine through 12.
“However, MVA was a boarding academy as well as having day students, and there are other opportunities should students desire a boarding academy experience,” said Shoemaker. “There are other boarding academies outside Ohio that have expressed in having MVA students at their facility.”
Shoemaker, who also is board chairwoman for the SDA elementary school on Sychar Road, said the closing of Mount Vernon Academy does not affect the elementary school. “They are two different entities,” she said. “We might lose some students. We actually have a board meeting scheduled for next week to see how that may impact us. … Fortunately, a lot of our students come from our area communities and churches.” Shoemaker that said a few of the students have a parent who is on faculty at MVA and, depending on where the parent’s future leads, a few elementary students may relocate.
Selling acreage owned by the academy is a possibility to meet the school’s financial obligations. According to Shoemaker, that possibility will be addressed by the committee created to care for the campus. “It’s too soon to speculate what will happen because we want to be able to explore our options,” she said, adding that there are no immediate plans to sell any acreage.
School activities at MVA, including Alumni Weekend and Graduation Weekend, will continue as normal through the end of the school year. Current enrollment is 85. The school employs 19 full-time and three part-time faculty and staff members. Shoemaker said some faculty members have submitted resumes at other schools and that conference and school officials are exploring what they can do to assist faculty and staff to locate other positions.
Established in 1893, the academy is the oldest existing Seventh-day Adventist boarding high school.