The Hendricks Day School Honors Chorus sang the national anthem before the Jacksonville Armada FC game Saturday.
That appears to have been the private school’s swan song.
The Southside institution startlingly announced Tuesday it was closing this month due to declining enrollment. The K-8 school opened in 1970.
The school’s board of trustees made the decision Monday and delivered the news by email Tuesday morning, saddening parents and other school supporters.
St. Johns Riverkeeper Lisa Rinaman, whose 6- and 8-year-old sons attend the school off Beach Boulevard, knew enrollment was down. But, she said, “We had hoped it was only a recoverable slump.”
“We are completely heartbroken,” she added. “Hendricks instilled the joy and love of learning in our boys which will last a lifetime.”
In his email to parents, board chair Jason Porter said next year’s “dismal” enrollment numbers were not apparent until late May.
He said the trustees considered options to keep the school in business, but couldn’t guarantee it could keep the doors open for a full school year.
“The board was simply unwilling to risk the prospect of closing mid-year, as that would have been the worst possible decision for our students and families,” he wrote.
Porter did not return emails and telephone calls Tuesday requesting additional information, including the school’s budget and enrollment numbers.
Hendricks Head of School Linda Johnson also did not respond to emails or phone calls.
Board of trustees members Dwight Cooper and Jim Kagiliery declined interviews, but said in emails that Hendricks’ parents, staff and supporters were grieving Tuesday.
“As a parent and a board member, I’m incredibly sad about the closing of Hendricks. As you might imagine, the Hendricks family is very emotional at this time,” Cooper said.
Kagiliery said, “I’m afraid today was a rough day for our Hendricks family. Our full efforts now are focused on helping our families and our faculty through their periods of transition.”
The school’s development director, Moppy McGee, said in an email the board of trustees instructed school leaders and staffers not to comment about the closure.
“We are mourning the loss of our school and making sure our families and faculty are being taken care of,” McGee wrote. “We sincerely appreciate your patience and understanding in this difficult time.”
In his email to parents, Porter said pre-paid tuition would be refunded and that Johnson and other Hendricks staffers will assist families in their searches for new schools.
“Please know that the board and the staff of Hendricks Day School will do our best to support you during this difficult transition,” he wrote.
Dave Farace, head of school at The Bolles School, said Tuesday he laments Hendricks’ closing.
“Hendricks Day School was a strong independent school and this is a tremendous loss for the Jacksonville community,” he said. “Bolles and our colleague independent schools are committed to helping Hendricks families find new school communities.”
Hendricks is accredited by the Southern Association of Independent Schools, the Florida Council of Independent Schools, the Florida Kindergarten Council, and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, its website says.
The school’s website lists about 20 teachers; online school-review websites list the school’s enrollment as ranging from 220 and 300 students.
Rinaman said she and her husband, Mark, intended for their two sons to attend Hendricks through eighth grade. She said Hendricks teachers excelled at their jobs by emphasizing personalized, educational exploration, and their efforts enhanced by the school’s strong sense of community.
“Teachers focused on individual students’ strengths to build confidence in each child,” Rinaman said. “My boys had meaningful relationships with kids of all ages and teachers from all grades.”
On Tuesday afternoon, Rinaman’s sons were still unaware of their school closing.
“I have not shared the news to them yet. I need to do so in person,” she said. “We will be searching for a new school home.”
About the school
According to the Hendricks Day School handbook, the institution opened 45 years ago as Hendricks Methodist Day School “as an alternative to the federal government’s busing mandate in Duval County.”
In 2004, disagreements between the church and school resulted in the entities being separated and Hendricks Day School of Jacksonville, a nonprofit corporation, being formed.
Students attended the school from throughout Jacksonville, but most live in the Southside area, according to the handbook. The school moved to its campus at 1824 Dean Road, a former church site, in 2004.
“The vision of the Hendricks board, administration, and faculty/staff embraces the concepts of seeking and utilizing strategies that accelerate learning by creating an environment that is individualized, child-friendly, challenging, stimulating and productive,” the handbook says. “Each child is different and brings his or her own strengths and weakness with him/her.”