A sluggish economy and sharp drop in enrollment will force Jewel Christian Academy at Eastern Star Church to close in May at the end of the current semester, church officials announced on Tuesday. The academy’s 115 students in kindergarten through the fifth grade will need to find new schools.
Eastern Star is one of Indianapolis’ largest churches with approximately 10,000 members. The academy is located on the mega church’s main campus at 5750 E. 30th St.
The school closing also means that 23 teachers and administrators will be looking for new jobs, although some administrators may be kept on for a bit longer past May, according to Nancy Rogers, director of education at Eastern Star. The Jewel Childcare Preschool, which serves children from newborn through age four, however, will remain open.
Eastern Star’s Board of Directors and the Jewel Education Services Board of Directors made the difficult decision to close the academy after enrollment had slipped by 30 percent over last year and it became untenable for the church to continue its $1 million subsidy of the school. The parents of the students and school staff were notified immediately of the boards’ decision.
“We are sad. We are grieving with our parents because this was our baby. We were dedicated to the education of our children. We are all agonizing over this,” said Rogers.
The academy was founded 15 years ago. In spite of its shuttering, the church will continue operating other education ministries, including an established scholarship program, community partnerships, youth ministry, summer camp and the preschool.
“Having been a parent of children educated at JCA and being an advocate of education, this has been tough,” said Jeffrey A. Johnson Sr., senior pastor at Eastern Star. “Our church and school boards ask for the community’s prayers as we work through the details of this transition.”
Jewel Christian Academy will host an education fair at 6 p.m. on Feb. 9 at the school, where parents of JCA students will able to talk with representatives from several other Christian schools about possible enrollment options.