Clearwater Christian College, a small liberal arts school on 138 waterfront acres at the west end of the Courtney Campbell Causeway, is closing.
Students, faculty and alumni this weekend are beginning to absorb the announcement posted Friday on the school’s website by the college’s board of directors.
College officials said the 350 current students along with the anticipated freshman class will have opportunities to transfer to some eight other private Christian colleges in Florida and elsewhere without going through another admissions process.
It was unknown what will happen to the prime waterfront property on the north side of the causeway that since 1966 has been the college campus.
“This is not a decision that we came to quickly or hastily,” college President John Klem said Saturday from his home in Palm Harbor. “Declining enrollment, shrinking donations and other encumbrances — all of those have factored into the decision.”
Klem said the college’s future has been a topic of discussion since he arrived as president in May 2012. After analyzing various short- and long-term options, the board of directors met late Thursday afternoon and unanimously voted to close the school, he said. The college’s tearful faculty and staff were told the news Friday.
By Friday afternoon, word began to trickle out via the college website post, social media sites and text messages among alums.
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“It’s definitely a sad day for everyone who went there,” said Julia Weeks Richarme, a 2001 Clearwater Christian graduate. “It’s just the memories and the thought, ‘Will my kid go there in the future?’ That’s not gonna happen.”
“Honestly, my heart just aches,” said Mitch Kuhn, a pastor at Skycrest Baptist Church who graduated from the college in 2008 and met his wife, Kamden, there. “No school’s perfect. But when you think about the thousands of students who went through the school and are now serving the church, it’s incredible to think of the legacy that has been left.”
Although the college is offering transfer assistance to current students, Kuhn said, they still have tough decisions to make – and not much time to make them.
“I just spoke to a current student yesterday,” Kuhn said. “He told me, ‘I don’t know what I’m gonna do.’ ”
Klem said the college will continue to operate through the summer. And school administrators are working on arrangements for possible student transfers to the other Christian schools in Florida, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. Terms of the pending arrangements include that course credits will be honored and existing student financial packages will be considered.
The same schools have expressed possible interest in hiring some of Clearwater Christian’s 25 full-time faculty members to fill existing vacancies at their campuses, Klem said. A portion of Clearwater Christian’s faculty will leave their positions at the end of June while another portion will continue through the end of July.
SOURCE: LESLEY SHAW
The Tampa Tribune