Saying “this school is going to open with more cash in the bank than I’ve ever seen it have,” Wakefield Country Day School’s Board of Trustees Chairman Paul F. Larner announced tonight that bells will ring at the private Flint Hill school, not only this coming academic year but for several years beyond.
Larner told the WCDS community crowded in Cowherd Auditorium that several generous friends of Wakefield — he told the Rappahannock News later between “5 to 10” individuals — have agreed to loan the school hundreds of thousands of “interest free” dollars, which when combined with $137,000 recieved during last 12 hours via a separate website campaign will total approximately $925,000.
“I want everyone to understand at the get-go that the people lending this money are not strangers to Wakefield,” Larner told the room. “I call them the ‘benevolent club’ because the loans that they’re making would never occur on commercial terms. And they have long durations to them — one loan is three years and the other is five years long.
“The purpose of that is to make sure the solution we’re putting in place today is not just for twelve months, it’s for three years and hopefully beyond,” the chair explained.
He stressed of the separate $137,000 raised today — “that’s been received, not pledged . . . so that’s extraordinary.”
“The 137 is not the end of the day,” Larner continued. “I would expect that we’ll get another forty-odd-thousand [dollars] that’s been told to us as either in the mail, or through other sources we believe [are] highly credible. So that would mean that we’ve raised $175,000 in actual donations to Wakefield school so that we can live another day.”
In addition, the chair said “we still have several, I would call them significant prospects, out there,” and he said he wouldn’t be surprised that by the “next week or two” there could be a round figure “of a million dollars or more” raised for WCDS.
Larner further stressed that both the money raised and the loans provided against Flint Hill’s real estate “has to be used prudently. And I’m sure that the current board members, together with the soon to be reconstituted finance committee, will make sure that that’s the case.
“Again, I want to emphasize that it’s not a short term solution, it’s a solution for years so that those parents of students who are concerned about next month, six months, twelve months, that should not be a concern in their minds at this point in time.”
Meanwhile, the chair said the other “component of our conundrum that we’ve been facing over the last [several] months, but in particular over the last seven days, is how many enrollment contracts we’ll have for the school year 2019 through 2020.
“And the board said a minimum threshold of 110 contracts,” he pointed out. “So once again, it’s with extraordinary satisfaction and delight that I can announce presently we’re at slightly at more than 120.”
The enrollment contract revelation was twice interrupted by loud applause.
“And so there’s no doubt now that the school will reopen with a solid enrollment,” said Larner, cautioning at the same time that the number of WCDS students could “erode” somewhat, but the board expecting “nothing significant.”
The chairman added that the current enrollment drive was by no means nearing conclusion, and that he would like to see “150 students” by the time the 2019-20 school year begins.
“We’re open for business, we want students, we’re loaded for bear,” is how Larner put it, urging families to “come to the greatest little school in Central Virginia.”
It’s been an incredibly rocky two weeks for Wakefield — students, parents and teachers alike — when out of the blue a two-page letter from the WCDS board went out to the school community saying that unless a considerable sum of money was raised in the coming few days the school would likely have to close at the end of this academic year.