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Parents organize to keep Kildonan School open

AMENIA — Given the legacy of Kildonan School and its work with children with dyslexia, it’s no wonder the recent announcement of its impending closure ignited concern among families whose children attend the school. Just last month, the Kildonan School Board of Directors determined that because of low enrollment, the school likely won’t achieve the number of students necessary to promote a thriving academic program and assure families and staff of its financial stability. Keeping these challenges in mind, a group of concerned parents developed a proposal for the board to keep Kildonan open for the 2019-20 school year and beyond.

Totaling 20 parents, the committee submitted an action plan to the board on Friday, June 28, followed by a corresponding financial plan on Tuesday, July 2. Though the plan focuses on a complete restructuring of the school, the committee emphasized its desire to retain the school’s Orton-Gillingham-based academic program that’s been used to instruct students with dyslexia since the school first opened. 

Among the plan’s finer points, the committee focused on what the board can do to attract new students, reduce school costs, offset program costs with additional sources of income and fundraise. Included in their suggestions for acquiring students, committee members recommended that the board contact a number of organizations in order to market the school and its services and appeal to families interested in enrolling. 

As far as reducing costs, suggestions ranged from researching options for insurance coverage, energy subsidies, tax rebates and solar to creating a committee of parent volunteers that would be responsible for carrying out tasks that would help keep the school running. 

Recommendations for offsetting program costs with additional sources of income included offering horseback riding lessons for a fee to other schools and community members; allowing students to board their own horse for a fee; and renting the school’s athletic building and offering travel teams. 

Ideas for fundraising included applying for grants; having families and staff collaborate on a fundraising effort to celebrate the school’s 50th anniversary; and hosting an on site 5K walk/run, an annual fund drive and/or a local golf tournament.

In a notice addressed to other Kildonan parents, the committee shared its goals to set both revenue and expense streams and ensure that the school “remains financially viable every year in the future, and that it balances its books every year in the future.

“It is the bare-minimum responsible thing to do,” the committee’s letter stated. “We have a fiduciary responsibility to all Kildonan stakeholders. We are committed. We think we can save Kildonan. We’re ready to do the required work.”

The committee also acknowledged that, in the event of its success, there will be a lot of work over the summer to get the school ready to reopen in the fall. Foreseeing possible challenges and understanding the value the school has in the community, the committee confirmed it will keep families updated as the board reviews its proposal and plan.

“This committee… is passionately devoted, committed to keeping the school open,” said Craig Cornell, a committee member and the father of two children who attended Kildonan School. “It’s one of the very few fine schools for students with dyslexia and we desperately need it to remain open.”

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