Updated 08/02/11 – 5:58 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — There were plenty of tears on Tuesday at Salem Christian Academy, where students, parents and teachers were trying to digest the news that the South Side school founded by Rev. James Meeks is closing after 21 years.
The school, at 11816 S. Indiana Ave. in the West Pullman neighborhood, will not be opening for the 2011-2012 school year.
As CBS 2’s Dorothy Tucker reports, the school – known for its excellence – now faces a $500,000 deficit.
“I been at the school since I was 3 years old. It is so hard. I really don’t want to go to another school,” said 8th grader Takhari Moore.
But she doesn’t have any choice. The only school she’s ever attended is closing its doors before the next school year begins. Parents got the news at a meeting Monday night.
“I’m upset. I feel really upset. I feel betrayed,” said one parent who didn’t want to be identified. She has two children at the school.
“The first reaction was just a lot of tears. I mean, the teachers started crying, the principal started crying because he told the parents, the teachers and the staff at the same time,” she said.
The school’s 36 teachers will now lose their jobs, but the school’s founder, State Sen. and Rev. James Meeks (D-Chicago), head of Salem Baptist Church, said he had little choice.
Meeks said the enrollment has dropped from nearly 500 to under 200 and the school faces a $500,000 budget deficit.
“We tried to raise tuition and parents didn’t want to do that. We tried to ask them to raise more money for the schools, they didn’t want to do that,” Meeks said. “Last year, our church had to contribute $375,000 to our school. Over the last five years, we’ve contributed $3 million to our schools.”
But it’s the timing that concerns some parents. Now they must find another school and they only have five weeks.
“The charter schools are all gone. … Some public, schools it’s kinda hard to take your kids to a good neighborhood, if you had a problem with the gang bangers and stuff like that,” said grandparent Pretrice Hinton. “You drop your kid off right here and have no problem.”
It’s especially hard for 8th graders like Takhari.
“I don’t want to go to another school … where the teachers don’t care about me,” she said. “I’ll miss the teachers, my friends, the way we got to learn.”
Many parents had already starting paying the $3,000 tuition for this year. The school did refund all their money.