Divine Intervention: A Chattanooga Christian school to remain open following closing announcement
A small Chattanooga private school has announced it will remain open after previously sharing plans to close due to financial issues.
"When the school board voted to close, we were all in agreement that it would really take a God-sized miracle to keep the school open," Krystal Bankston, the school's principal, recalled.
Not long after breaking the news to parents and students, Bankston says a God-sized miracle is exactly what they got.
"I was real(ly) happy because it's a big opportunity, and it's still here," junior Marcus Tankersley said.
The announcement that Hamilton Heights Christian Academy (HHCA) would remain open came after students and parents received letters earlier this month saying it would close its doors after 22 years. The school board voted to close it earlier this month as a result of mounting debt.
"We found out pretty quickly that there was some financial distress with the school--some longstanding debt that we had," Bankston told Channel 3.
It was debt that the school's only revenue source of tuition couldn't keep up with--leaving local and international students, parents and staff members uncertain about their future.
"We were just trying to figure out where I'm going--if I'm going back home (or) if I'm gonna stay here and attend another school," international student Gustavo Finotti said.
Bankston says what happened next, some might say was divine intervention.
"When we sent out that letter, we immediately started getting flooded with calls of how people could support the school," she explained.
Some of those calls came from education investors familiar with the school but not the depths of its financial woes.
"They really believed in the mission and the vision of the school, and they wanted to come alongside us and support us long term," she said.
The school, which is recognized for its sports programs, means a lot to local and international student-athletes who hope to go to the next level.
"The foreigners here look forward to this school a lot and even the local people because this is a big opportunity for sports and education," Tankersley said.
It also means keeping their close-knit school family of around 80 students and staff members going into year 23.
Bankston said with money problems no longer an issue, they hope to increase student enrollment to between 150 and 200 students within the next three to five years.