Academy of the Pacific closes after 52 years of service

Academy of the Pacific closes after 52 years of service
Published: Jun. 10, 2013 at 5:31 PM HST|Updated: Jun. 10, 2013 at 9:45 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - After 52 years, the Academy of the Pacific in Alewa Heights has canceled its upcoming school year.

Despite tuition rates of more than $17,000 a year per student, school officials say they've been losing money for the last several years and had no other choice but to close.

Academy of the Pacific's Board Chair Barron Guss announced on Monday that the School will cease academic operations effective for the 2013-2014 school year.

Board Chair Barron Guss said that "due to declining enrollment and increased financial pressures on families leading to greater need for tuition assistance, the School can no longer financially sustain itself nor continue to offer our students the very best in twenty first century education."

"I just couldn't believe it," said Jodie Yee, a parent whose daughter was really looking forward to the 10th grade with her friends at the Academy of the Pacific.

"It's so sad.  My daughter is – she is just devastated," described Yee.

Now she and dozens of other students in grades 6 through 12 will have to find a new campus before the fall semester begins.

"We don't know where to look.  It's just – we've looked before here and now we need to look again, but a lot of places already closed their enrollment, so I don't know," explained Yee.

School officials say a down economy is to blame for declining enrollment.  Last year 26 seniors graduated, this year there were only 12.  The school promoted its small size and eight to one student teacher ratio, but officials say admissions shrunk to the point they couldn't keep operating.

"If we opened school today with the numbers we have, we'd be opening with about 30 students – and you really can't have a 6th through 12th grade with 30 students," explained Head of the School Lou Young.

Young says in addition to a drop in enrollment, there was also an increase in the number of families applying for financial aid.  He says both were major factors in the board's decision to cancel classes.

"We just didn't have the money to be able to accommodate all of that, so rather than try to limp through and not offer what we think is the quality education that we've offered every year, we said it's probably better to help students find other schools," described Young.

Young says he's working with the Hawaii Association of Independent Schools to find a spot for every student and staff member.

"The Hawaii Association of Independent Schools has told us that they were going to reach out to everyone of the O'ahu independent schools and say – 'Would you please, even if your admissions is closed, would you please open your admissions for these kids?' It was not their fault this happened.  It's what happened as a result of the economy and admissions, and thankfully, almost all those schools said they'd be willing to do that," said Young.

After personal phone calls were made to all current families on Saturday, Board Chair Barron Guss wrote a letter sent by email and posted on the website and on the School's Facebook page.  Mr. Guss said in the letter "Academy of the Pacific would like to express our sincere gratitude to all of those who have supported Academy of the Pacific over our rich 52 year history."  "As a proud alumnus myself, I hope you will join me in celebrating the lives that have been touched by this unique School," said Guss.

Young says the campus is not shut down completely.  Summer school will continue as planned and they'll still be renting the property out to church and school groups while the Board decides what the next step will be.

"This is very difficult and it's heart wrenching, lots of tears," described Young.  "But what is amazing is that everybody just wants to help – nobody's out there pointing fingers or blaming people."

The Academy is located in Alewa Heights and served grades 6 through 12.

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