Focus | Stuart Hall works through the recession

Plan includes sale of property, renewed fundraising efforts

Story by Chris Graham

Rumors were swirling among students at Stuart Hall for weeks that the 165-year-old Staunton private school might not even make it to the second semester of the 2009-2010 school year due to a run of budget issues related to the ongoing economic downturn and the 2007 merger of Stuart Hall and Hunter McGuire.

Good news came Friday with the announcement that the Board of Trustees of the Church Schools in the Diocese of Virginia, the nonprofit corporate parent of Stuart Hall, had approved a plan from the Stuart Hall Board of Governors laying out how the school will make it through the tough times.

“I talked with the entire student body here on our Staunton campus about our finances, about how the school is funded, just so they would know what the school is doing, what the board is doing to make sure that the school that they love and care for will continue to be here for years to come,” said Mark Eastham, the head of Stuart Hall School, in an interview with the AFP Monday morning.

It’s not going to be easy going, though. In addition to issues with declining enrollment due to the economic downturn and the merger with Hunter McGuire, Stuart Hall faces a credit issue dating back to a 2003 loan from the CSDV for facility improvements.

The Stuart Hall plan covers the basics – from budget cuts to student recruitment and retention to fundraising. It also includes the proposed sale of property owned by the school to provide an infusion of cash into the operating coffers.

“So much good has come out of this time. It really has. People have really focused on how important this school is to them personally, and we as a school have focused on our importance to the community and what we have to offer. So even though it’s been a tough time, it’s been an important time as well,” Eastham said.

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