By Linda Looney-Bond
Mount Zion Christian Academy, in Jonesboro, is closing it's doors after 38 years of serving the community.
The closing is due to decreased enrollment, brought on by the sluggish economy, according to Chris Reynolds, senior pastor of Mount Zion Baptist Church, which runs the school.
"We did not make the decision to close the school, the low enrollment made the decision," said Reynolds. "We were working and planning to have school, then it became apparent that the enrollment would not be enough to sustain us for the next year."
Reynolds said the school's leadership determined on July 14 that the school would not re-open for the 2009-2010 school year.
"Typically, we had 425-430 [students] the last few years," said Reynolds. "The day we made the decision, we had a possibility of 139 students, and so it was not economically possible to have Mt. Zion Academy at that time."
The school, which includes grades K-3 (pre-school) to 12th grade, is located at 7102 Mt. Zion Blvd., Jonesboro.
"There was no joy taken in closing Mt. Zion Academy," said Reynolds. "Our heart is broken, but our hearts are resolved to continue to serve this community," he said.
Reynolds said he notified school and church administrators of the closing on Wednesday, July 15.
"On Friday morning [July 17], I met with church and school staff. On Friday afternoon, we mailed a letter to parents, and posted it to the web site," the pastor said.
Reynolds said 80 to 100 school employees, both full and part-time, will lose their jobs.
"We are now in the process of helping those people assimilate into new jobs, with making phone calls, filling out references -- and I've got church members that have taken on the responsibility of finding available jobs," he said.
"The same with the students, for parents. We have brochures and flyers from neighboring schools, saying this is a need that we can meet."
Reynolds said a teleconference is also planned between parents and the Parent Teacher Fellowship, to distribute information to help parents make decisions about where their children will attend school.
"I think a large number are going to go to other Christian schools in the community. Most of them are in Henry County," he said. "Some of our students are going to Eagle's Landing Christian Academy or Creekside Christian Academy, in Henry County," he said.
"Some of them will go to public school."
Reynolds said he is often asked whether the school will re-open at a later date. "We're open to a lot of things. We're exploring a lot of possibilities," he said.
"The decision not to have Mt. Zion Academy was not made lightly, and the reaction has been from shock to frustration, because we had employees that we had for 30 years. We had kids that have been here since K-3, that were going to graduate this year," he said.
"The reaction has been one of sadness, but Mt. Zion Church has been here for 163 years, and we plan on remaining here.
"Mt. Zion Church will continue to meet the spiritual needs and the worship needs of this community, and the church will continue to do the events that reach out to the community," Reynolds said.