Public board plans possible closure of 27 schools
In a region where 27 public schools may be closed within 10 years due to a declining student population, Trenton Christian School has been able to keep its numbers steady to date.
Considering the situation in the broader community, that’s a significant achievement, says principal Ed Petrusma.
“In today’s market in terms of demographics, with families having fewer children, it almost feels like growth,” says Petrusma.
The principal attributes the school’s success to a number of factors but highlights the work of development director Karen Whitley as a key element.
A part-time staff-member at the school for three years, Whitley has developed a comprehensive marketing plan that covers all the strands of advancement and recruitment.
While word-of-mouth advertising through parents is vital as well, Petrusma says it’s important to be strategic about the audiences to be addressed and the methods to be used to raise awareness about the school’s existence.
The message — that what the school has to offer “is not only a viable option, it’s quite an example of how education can happen with an active parent-teacher education model” — is also significant.
Trenton Christian School also has ties to 17 area churches of varying denominations as well as a strong connection to the business community, which helps boost its profile.
Two other factors have impacted the school’s population, says Petrusma. One of these is that the school, which celebrated its 50th anniversary last year, now has second and third generation families enrolling their children.
In addition, the local military base has seen increased activity lately as a main deployment base and a number of families moving to the area have chosen to send their children to Trenton Christian School.
However, the majority of families choosing the school “are looking for educational alternatives and have said now we’re going to make that change,” says Petrusma.
The school has been able to maintain enrollment at about 250 students.
Trenton Christian School is in the Hastings and Prince Edward District Public School Board region. Earlier this month the board publicized a report by consulting firm Watson and Associates Economists Ltd., which recommended the closure of 27 of its 47 elementary schools, particularly several in North Hastings.
“The bottom line is, because our student population is declining, and therefore our funding is declining, we know we have to do something,” said Kerry Donnell, the board’s communications officer, in a recent Belleville Intelligencer article, School trustees to discuss public input on closures.