St. Stephen’s Episcopal Day School closes for 2020-2021 school year

BECKLEY, WV (WOAY) – The St. Stephen’s Episcopal Day School announced that it will be closing after 65 years in operation.

St. Stephen’s Episcopal Day School has working to stay open for the 2020-2021 academic year. However, due to circumstances presented by COVID-19, a major drop in enrollment meant that the school had to close.

“At my first board meeting, almost a year ago, I was able to look at the financials and realize that there was an issue,” said Reverend Susan Claytor. “Since last October, we’ve been working on looking at the long-term history. There has been a decline in attendance because we are a three our pre-school. We are not a day-care, and the need for that has been waning.”

Only 23 students had been enrolled for the upcoming school year. In order to open, at least 40 students were needed.

“Thanks to the Small Businesses Administration Cares Act, we were able to pay the staff, but we still incurred other costs,” Claytor said. “We finished up the year at a tremendous loss. Then, we discovered, because the virus was in place when we started enrollment, we were not getting the inquiries that we usually get.”

The closing of St. Stephen’s will not have a small impact on the Beckley community. St. Stephen’s has not officially closed its doors forever, and Claytor is optimistic that they will be able to find a long-term solution.

“We’re going to pray, and we’re going to see what the call is,” Claytor said. “Is the call to reopen the school? Is the call to take on another ministry? Something that was brought to our attention a year ago was the need for after-school programs. Many children don’t have a place to go in the hours between 3-6. Maybe it’s both. Maybe we’ll have the morning pre-school and the afternoon. We’re not making any definite decisions because we’re going to let God show us all of the possibilities.”

A liability to the church was a key factor behind St. Stephen’s ultimately closing its doors.