The Oakley School announces closing
After 19 years, boarding school was unable to attract enough students
The Oakley School, a college preparatory boarding school that also provides therapeutic services for students, is closing its doors after 19 years.
The school announced the news Thursday on its Facebook page and website, oakley-school.com. In an interview, David Prior, the school’s chief operating officer, said administrators have had trouble in recent years attracting enough students who are a fit for the school’s niche blend of academic rigor and therapy.
Traditionally, the school has been ideal for academically inclined students transitioning out of mental health or substance abuse treatment facilities. The school helps bridge the gap to college, but Prior said more therapeutic treatment centers now provide that kind of support as part of their programs, making facilities like The Oakley School less necessary.
“There’s a lot more work being done throughout the industry to have transitional services being given,” he said. “That’s the good part. But there is a sad side of it, to close, because it’s such a wonderful program, with wonderful staff and faculty.”
Currently, the school is home to 26 students in grades nine through 12, who will finish out the school year, which will culminate in a final graduation ceremony for seniors May 26. Prior said the mood around the school has been somber since the staff broke the news of the closing to the students Wednesday. They will be allowed to stay on campus until June 30, but underclassmen will have to find new schools or programs.
“It’s been a sad moment for people,” he said. “They’ve been very supportive with each other, but it’s been a sad moment.”
However, the school is hoping its final months also serve as a celebration of what it’s meant to the hundreds of students from all over the country it has shepherded through adolescence within its halls.
“It’s been a place of life-changing experiences,” Prior said. “Just this week, I was told by a staff member that we had a visitor on campus that was a previous (alumnus). They just wanted to show their family — their an adult now — the place where their life was changed. I think that has been the experience for countless individuals.”
Prior added that the future of the school’s facilities — including its main school house — is unclear. The school is currently leasing the property.
“We’re looking at various options right now, but there’s no firm plan on what we’re going to be doing with the property,” he said.
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The South Summit Board of Education voted 4-1 to put a bond measure on November’s ballot asking for $87 million to build a new high school.