Fox River Country Day School closing

Fox River Country Day School, one of the oldest independent schools in Elgin, is closing after 98 years.

The school board voted Sunday to close the school after a fundraising campaign and other efforts were not enough to fund operations for another year.

“For almost a century the school had been able to balance tuition and development money in order to meet all the expenses of the school,” said Dennis Marunde, former board chairman and finance committee member.

But in the recession, enrollment dropped as some families decided they could no longer afford tuition. Among the families who remained, there were more requests for financial aid. Eventually, the numbers just didn’t work.

“Our expenses really didn’t go down and our donations certainly have gone up, but they haven’t gone up fast enough to keep up with the decline of students,” Marunde said.

Fox River Country Day, originally called Chicago Junior School, was founded in 1913 in Michigan as a boarding school for orphaned boys in Chicago. The school eventually expanded to include girls and now serves more commuters than boarders. The school adopted its current name in 2003.

It moved to its Elgin location, at Route 25 just north of Interstate 90, in 1923 and has been there ever since. While it serves a small population (about 150 students), the school is noted for its prairie-style architecture and the 53 acres of woods that surround the school buildings and figure prominently in the school’s outdoor education.

“I don’t think the community realizes what an impact it will have,” said Karen Morse, head of the school since 2008. “There really isn’t another school like it.”

The University of Illinois Extension named Fox River Country Day a 2011 Illinois State School of Character — one of only two in the state to earn the award.

Carpentersville parent Gina Whitlock says she is sad the school is closing and is planning to send her two children to Elgin Academy, another independent school in Elgin that has fared better in the recession.

“It was an incredible loving, nurturing environment,” Whitlock said. “My motto was: ‘Every child should be able to go to a school like this.’”

Mary Sue Krutchen of Elgin said she enrolled her daughter in the school because she thought the students and staff would provide a stable learning environment for her daughter, who is shy.

“She felt comfortable there really quickly. The other children made her feel welcome,” Krutchen said. “Now, it’s just going to be another change for her.”

  Elena Silva, left, and Olivia Halik, conduct an experiment in their seventh grade science class at Fox River Country Day School in Elgin. Laura Stoecker/
  The Fox River Country Day School was noted for its prairie-style architecture. The school announced Tuesday it is closing after 98 years because it was unable to raise enough money to continue operating. Brian Hill/