Officials at the Eagle Cove School, a private co-educational day school in Pasadena with fewer than 100 students, announced this week it would shut down at end of the academic year in June because of financial problems.
In a letter to parents and the school community dated Jan. 7, Head of School Laura Kang and board of trustees co-presidents Luanne Adams and Michael Johnson said the school's board voted unanimously to close its doors. Reached Thursday, Kang said the school "just didn't have enough students to keep going."
Formerly Gibson Island Country School, Eagle Cove was founded in 1956 for students in prekindergarten through the fifth grade and is located along the Magothy River near Gibson Island.
The school has built a reputation on its environmental emphasis and studies. During the 2008-2009 school year, students built an geodesic dome greenhouse on campus for growing plants and vegetables.
Eagle Cove achieved Maryland Green School status in 2006, and teacher Vicki Dabrowka was named Anne Arundel County Private School Teacher of the Year in 2012.
Dabrowka, a teacher at Eagle Cove for seven years, said her daughter graduated from the school, and her son is still attending. She said faculty and parents were formally told of the decision mid-week in meetings before the letter went out.
"There were tears," said Dabrowka, who teaches third grade and also serves as the school's academic dean. "As a teacher, I can honestly say it's been the most cohesive group of colleagues I've ever been blessed to be associated with."
The school was highlighted in a local documentary "Save the Magothy River," created by filmmaker Charles Germain in September 2013 that focuses on the Marylanders Grow Oysters project in the Magothy River.
In the documentary, students are shown moving large piles of oyster shells and spat to the river, with some older students in waders in the water to receive them near the school's pier. Kang says in the film, "We have learned in working with our children that we are not just affecting their habits by engaging them in these hands-on projects, … what we discover is that our parents say it changes their behaviors at home as well."
In the letter this week, school officials said, "Enrollment has been down at the school for many years. We were hopeful that last year's increase was the beginning of a trend, but this year's enrollment of 76 did not support that optimism.
"Despite the widespread recognition of the excellence of the school, we have not been able to enroll enough students to attain financial feasibility," the letter continued. "The Board of Trustees voted unanimously after many long, creative and thoughtful discussions looking at a wide spectrum of alternatives.
"It is hard to imagine that something so special, so valuable, so unique would not persist forever."
In the letter, school officials pledged to assist faculty and families as they move into new school, and said that despite the closing, the school's academic program "has never been better."