Elgin Academy to close at the end of the school year, its 185th

Elgin Academy's 185th year will be its last. The pre-K through 12th grade independent school has announced it will close at the end of the 2023-2024 school year.

School officials said in a written statement that their board, leadership and other community members determined that "our model of an independent school is no longer sustainable in Elgin."

"This is heartbreaking," Paul Druzinsky, the interim head of the school, said Wednesday. "This is a huge loss for the kids and the adults."

The final decision was made Monday by the board and school leadership. Druzinsky said parents informed their kids on Tuesday, and school staff discussed it with students on Wednesday.

"There was clear sorrow and clear heartbreak. But these kids were just amazing," he said. "It was almost heartwarming to see how resilient they were and to hear from them, trying to turn these very challenging circumstances into something positive."

The school said they will host webinars to share more information, including plans for the balance of the school year.

An FAQ on their website said the school had been experiencing "a steady erosion in enrollment" and had seen a 50% drop since 2014. The school lost 100 students over the past five years and 30 from last year to the start of this year.

Elgin Academy currently has 180 students and about 50 staff members.

Druzinsky said various demographic, market and economic forces have negatively impacted independent schools nationwide in recent years.

"The greater Elgin area has all of these challenges in one place. It's like a storm," he said. "The general economy is down, the birthrate is down - all of these things have hit Elgin Academy."

He also said fewer families are willing to pay college-type tuition for grade and elementary schools.

The school's statement said the situation didn't seem likely to improve.

"Regrettably, given the current enrollment landscape combined with EA's modest endowment and aging physical plant, we would essentially have to run a significant annual capital campaign simply to be able to cover the school's operating budget, which currently runs at a $4 million deficit," it said.

Elgin Academy's endowment is currently a little more than $2 million.

Druzinsky took over as interim head three months ago. He said he knew the school faced challenges when he took the job but hoped it could turn things around.

"I think it became clear over the last couple of months that what we had hoped would be a stronger turnaround in enrollment and other sources of funding weren't going to come through," he said.

Druzinsky said telling families now was the best option.

"We knew that this decision was the right thing to do at this point because we couldn't guarantee that we would be solvent a year from now," he said.

Elgin Academy opened in 1839. The original campus building, "Old Main," now serves as the home of the Elgin History Museum and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The board is exploring options for the 18-acre campus.

"We'd love to see another school or another nonprofit entity take advantage of the wonderful campus," he said. "Ultimately, we don't know yet."

In the meantime, Druzinsky said school officials are doing everything they can to prepare families with options for their kids and make the school year memorable for the students.

"We hope and certainly plan to make the last year the best year ever," he said.

  Elgin Academy opened in 1839. The school will close at the end its current academic year. Brian Hill/, 2018
Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.