Buffalo Township Christian school closes, citing declining enrollment
Evangel Heights Christian Academy in Buffalo Township has closed its doors for good.
Daniel Corfield, pastor and CEO of Evangel Heights, cited a consistently declining enrollment and low finances as primary reasons for closing the Christian school attached to Evangel Heights Church at 120 Beale Road.
The school opened in 1990.
Corfield said registration for the upcoming school year was at an all-time low of 122.
“We used to enroll around 230 students,” Corfield said.
“We were not financially viable and hadn’t been for several years,” he said.
Only kindergarten remains
A kindergarten class is the sole survivor, remaining open in conjunction with the on-site, church-run day care and preschool.
“Our day care is full,” Corfield said.
A decision was made Aug. 5 by the church and school administration boards to close the school.
Teachers and other staff were notified by email in late July about significant cutbacks, but the decision to close the school wasn’t made until this month when church and school officials realized they had only two seniors registered for the coming school year.
The school had 17 graduates last school year.
“It’s been a heartbreaking decision and the church footed the bill for 40% of EHCA operating costs last year,” pastor of education Nate Watkins said. “It’s been a painful process. I came on board new this past May, and I was hoping to direct the school into a more fruitful decision.”
Tiffany Seitz of Buffalo Township, who graduated from Evangel Heights in 2013, called the closure “quite a devastating situation.”
“It has been my church, school and second home for my entire life,” Seitz said. “I’ve made some of my best friends at EHCA, some of whom I went to college with as well.
“It’s a really sad predicament that people have been put in because of closing this institution.”
Tuition ranged from $4,500 to $5,100 per student, depending on grade level, Watkins said.
Some of the academy’s staff of about 15 are still awaiting paychecks.
“The teachers are owed two payrolls (from July), and we have every intention of paying them,” Corfield said.
Efforts to save some grades failed
School administrators originally planned to close only grades 1 through 5, with a proposed hybrid online model for grades 6 through 12.
But that idea wasn’t embraced by parents and was never implemented, according to school administrators.
“We have recommended other private Christian schools such as Cheswick Christian Academy and Harvest Baptist Church,” Corfield said. “If I could wrap my arms around everyone in the community, I would.”
The school’s website has been taken down.
Joyce Hanz is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.