Parents fighting to keep Montgomery County private school open post-coronavirus

After a Montgomery County private school announced it will close for good due to financial strain from the COVID-19 pandemic, parents are doing everything possible to keep the doors open.

Seneca Academy in Darnestown has been around for nearly 40 years, teaching pre-K and elementary students.

Parents said they were shocked to get an email saying the school will permanently close.

CORONAVIRUS RESOURCES: Everything You Need to Know

“I was devastated,” said Caraline Hickman. “We had no idea that it was coming. This is a family, it’s so much more than just a school.”

Hickman said her two children were in tears. She said it was her daughter Sterling’s birthday wish that convinced her she needed to take action.

“The one thing I asked for for my birthday was to have my school back,” Sterling said.

Parents got organized, starting a campaign to save Seneca Academy.

Their fundraising goal is a high one—$750,000. But they’re encouraged that in just two days they’ve gotten more $60,000 in pledges.

“And that’s not big donors,” said Hickman. “Our school parking lot is not full of Maseratis and BMWs.”

Enrollment at Seneca Academy is over a hundred students. Across the country, smaller private schools are facing similar crises. Catholic schools in New Jersey and Houston are shutting down. Some colleges are permanently closing too.

While it’s a tall order to raise enough money, parents said Seneca Academy is something exceptional.

Briana Havrilesky said it was tough leaving the school when her family moved overseas for her husband’s job. When her husband died in an accident last year, she said Seneca Academy is the reason she decided to move back to Montgomery County.

“Having this to come back to made such a difficult scenario that much more comforting,” Havrilesky said. “I feel like it’s a kind of environment where we’re raising all of our kids together.”

Parents don’t have much time to meet their fundraising goal because families and staff have to start making other plans for next year if the school can’t be saved.

They’re hoping to find big donors in the next two weeks.

Download the FOX 5 DC News App for Local Breaking News and Weather