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Monroe Academy is history

By Will Davis and Gina Herring After 43 years of operation, Monroe Academy is closing its doors. The board and staff announced on Monday that after chasing every hope that money and students were around the corner, they still don’t have the funds to re-open next month. ”We could not in good faith begin the school year without the assurance that we could complete it,” schools leaders said in a statement sent to parents and teachers. The decision leaves 25 teachers and staff looking for work. Head of school Martha Krepps said the slumping economy was the final nail in the school’s coffin. Even though Monroe cut tuition this year to $5,900, the school hadn’t added enough new students during the summer. Further complicating matters, an increasing number of enrolled students needed financial aid in order to return. ”We have literally exhausted any and all leads to a better end,” said the board’s statement. The Monroe Academy office will remain open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Thursday for the next few weeks to help students with transcripts and any questions they may have about transferring. Krepps said they will be refunding tuition for 2009-10 and she hopes they can come up with funds to offer faculty and staff severance packages. She said the Monroe property and its 24+ acres are up for sale immediately. The school’s financial troubles became public last fall and after an emergency meeting the school raised $300,000 to remain open through the end of the year. During that time, the school entered talks to sell the school to Rock Springs Church in Milner, but a deal was never consummated. Monroe did partner with Rock Springs’ existing school, opting in March to close grades K-5 while keeping grades 6-12 open for 2009-10. Monroe officials said Rock Springs’ lower grades would act as a feeder school for Monroe. But now the school is closing, and alumni and supporters are grieving. ”It breaks my heart,” said board member and Monroe Academy alum K.B. Ayer. “We tried everything we could. We worked so hard to avoid this. So many people worked so hard.” Ayer graduated from Monroe in 1982 and her daughter Kirstie just graduated last May. Ayer says she is still numb from the shock of making the final decision to close Monroe’s doors forever, but says the board just had no other choice. ”I really hate it for the students,” said Ayer. “There are also about 25 very good teachers and other staff members who are now going to be looking for a job. I pray they are able to find something.” Simon Colwell of Barnesville is one of those students. He’s attended Monroe since he was in 5K and would have been a senior there this fall. ’I’m pretty upset,’ Colwell said. ‘This being our senior year and having to change schools.’ But Colwell said it’s something all the seniors saw coming, but had just held out hope that they’d be able to graduate from Monroe. Founded in 1966, Monroe grew into a big-time private school of about 500 students in the 1980s. But the proliferation of private schools in Macon and the improved reputation of the local public schools took their toll. Of 31 graduates in the class of 2009, fewer than six were from Monroe County. Many of the school’s students hailed from Barnesville, Griffin and Macon. And total enrollment fell to about 180 students. Krepps had said they’d need at least 250 students to survive. When told the news Monday night, Monroe Academy alum John Cary Bittick, the long-time Monroe County sheriff, said he had been afraid that might happen. He said giving parents another option has been good for the county. ”It will be tragic for the community to lose that choice for people,” said Bittick. “Monroe has been very good for the community in the past. The county is extremely fortunate to have a very good public school system and has had a very good private school system.” (From http://www.mymcr.net).

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