The draw down of the student population at Glenwood Academy's Rathje Campus in St. Charles was gradual and painful. Now the time for a full closure and sale of the boarding school on Silver Glen Road has arrived.
School officials confirmed the pending sale of the 120-acre campus to the highest bidder on Friday. A closing is expected in August. John Irwin, interim CEO for Glenwood, said the identity of the buyers is confidential during the due diligence phase. However, Irwin believes the buyer will maintain the campus largely as it currently exists for either some kind of health care special services facility or a specialized school. The campus currently has 11 buildings, including eight residence halls, an academic center with a library and computer lab, a field house and a dining hall/office building. There is also a fishing pond on the campus.
Glenwood serves primarily students from low-income backgrounds or those who have some other hardship with their home or school environment. Funding the boarding and education of its students has become more of a challenge in recent years.
Officials moved the entire elementary and middle school population of the St. Charles campus to the school's main campus in south suburban Glenwood in 2011. That left only a small group of high school students in St. Charles. Currently, there are only two students living on the campus during the week and Glenwood pays for them to attend St. Edward Catholic High School in Elgin.
Irwin said the decision to sell the Rathje Campus is all about money. Glenwood officials used tax-exempt bonds to construct the campus back in 1994. Those bonds became more and more of a drain on Glenwood's investments as donors became more hesitant to give when the economy tanked. Glenwood uses no public funds other than a reimbursement for the school's lunch/milk program to operate. Between 80 and 90 percent of the students Glenwood serves fall into the low-income guidelines for that program.
"The long-term future was dim in terms of trying to maintain the operation on two campuses," Irwin said. "This direction was coming for a while. Right now, our people are absorbed with the issue of regret. There's a mourning period."
Irwin said the sale will pay off a large share of the bond debt. Glenwood will still recruit students from the Western suburbs with the intention of busing them to Glenwood if cluster of at least 15 to 20 students are interested.
Irwin said Glenwood's south side campus is still going strong, though officials wish they could transport some of the newer buildings at the Rathje Campus down to Glenwood. Despite that, the school is on track to start the fall term with about 140 students and an eye for increasing that total to 180 with a small future investment.
"There is a hope to increase capacity," Irwin said. "But right now we have to figure out how to make sure we have an operation that will go another 125 years."