Amid declining enrollment and financial struggles, the American Boychoir School is closing its doors for good after an 80-year run.
Rob D’Avanzo, chairman of the school’s board of trustees, said enrollment for the 2017-2018 school year was lower than anticipated. In year’s past, American Boychoir was composed of roughly 40 boys from across the country in grades four through eight, but the school was set to start this year with just 19 to 21 boys enrolled.
“Students whom we had expected to return decided not to do so, and our recruiting efforts for new students failed to materialize at the levels we had seen in recent years,” D’Avanzo said in a statement.
While D’Avanzo said the low enrollment would make it impossible to produce a professional choir up to their standards, the lack of students also presented a financial challenge for the school. Even with generous donations from the community, there was not enough tuition money to cover the school’s obligations under their Chapter 11 Plan of Reorganization.
Two years ago, the school filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and has since heavily relied on fundraising efforts to remain open.
“When the lower enrollment and related lower tuition revenue are taken together with the constricted cash position, the conclusion is as clear as it is unpleasant: ABS does not have the cash it needs to open the school and cannot reasonably anticipate revenues that would allow it to finish the school year if it did open,” D’Avanzo said, adding that if the school opened this year it would be forced to close in one or two months.
D’Avanzo also said that the board was stunned enrollment numbers were so low. The Hopewell school, which was previously located in Princeton and Plainsboro, traveled across the nation and world performing in front of large audiences. During the school’s 80-year run, the choir performed in front of presidents, the pope and at notable venues such as Carnegie Hall.
However, the school has also had its fair share of scandals. The New York Times uncovered years of sexual abuse at the boarding school. A former dean of students was also arrested for allegedly sexually assaulting a child in 2013.
In his statement, D’Avanzo said the school will immediately begin to wind down operations and all tuition deposits for the upcoming school year will be refunded.
“We regret the result for our students and for our staff, and for our long history as an American music institution,” he said.