The Cannon Beach Academy could close before the end of the school year if a $75,000 shortfall is not addressed in the next few months.
The public charter school’s financial situation is due to lower-than-expected enrollment and uncollected pledges.
“The board of directors is committed to keeping Cannon Beach Academy operating. We will make a concentrated effort to secure our pledges and, if necessary, to conduct fundraising activities,” Kellye Dewey, the school board president, and Barb Knop, the treasurer, wrote in a joint statement. “The board sincerely hopes that our donors who have pledged their financial support of the school through pledges are able to honor their commitments to the Cannon Beach Academy.”
As of last week, the charter school had received only about $35,000 of the expected $100,000 pledged for the school year, leaving more than two-thirds of pledged money outstanding. Additionally, about $10,000 outside of pledges will need to be raised to close the gap.
“I don’t know how to impress upon the board the importance of getting our pledges,” Amy Fredrickson, the academy director, said at a December board meeting. “I don’t know if people truly understand how urgent it is that we need their money.”
Close by April
Without the money, the school likely will be unable to pay its staff through the end of the school year and would have to close its doors by April.
What that would mean for students or for teacher contracts is unclear.
“I do not have answers for you,” Fredrickson said in an email. “I am focused on getting our pledges so this won’t happen.”
The charter school has struggled since its inception. The effort to open it began after Cannon Beach Elementary School was shuttered in 2013 due to financial issues and tsunami safety concerns.
After securing a charter through the Seaside School District in 2016, the academy had to find a new location four months before opening for the 2017-2018 school year. A cost estimate for the new location came in $150,000 over what was budgeted for construction at the original location on Sunset Boulevard.
While the academy was able to secure a home at the former children’s center building, first-year enrollment was lower than anticipated. Fredrickson has attributed the enrollment challenge to the perception that the school’s status was “up in the air” during the last-minute location change. Confusion about the fact the school is tuition-free and not a private school also played a part.
The academy faced lower than expected enrollment again this school year, falling 17 students short of its 50-student goal. Having fewer students ultimately impacts how much funding the charter school receives from the Seaside School District.
Pledges could also be stalling because of doubts some people in the community have about the academy’s sustainability.
One major donor, who has remained anonymous, has told the board they will not give their $33,000 pledge until the school proves it can make it through two full years.
Because of how long it took the academy to open its doors, the loss of some momentum from initial donors could be contributing to the problem, Fredrickson said.
“Some of these pledges were made so long ago. The amount of time that went by between the pledge being made versus when we’re asking for our money may have impacted this, as well,” she said.
In the short term, the board hopes to solidify a fundraising committee in January and collect as many pledges as possible.
“We can’t be complacent. We can’t be passive anymore,” John Molyneux, a board member, said.