After more than 85 years, Green Fields college preparatory school announced it would not open for the 2019-2020 school year. The northside nonprofit academy, known for high scholarship numbers and academic achievement, filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy July 14.
In a July 9 letter to Green Fields students and families, Green Fields board of trustees president Anthony Marshall wrote that the school could not secure enough funding to guarantee it would remain open for the entire school year.
“The Board worked exhaustively to put in place a viable plan during recent months,” Marshall wrote. “Those efforts continued up through this past weekend. We have exhausted every option that would allow us to continue.
Therefore, Green Fields will not open in August.”
Along with this letter came Becky Cordier’s resignation as Head of School.
According to Chapter 11 Bankruptcy documents filed by Marshall, Green Fields was forced into declaring bankruptcy due to “growth in free charter school alternatives” and “precipitous” enrollment declines from 2012 to 2016. In addition, Green Fields’ board of trustees “concluded that between continued uncertainty about enrollment levels and continued cost pressure it could not build a budget that guaranteed operation through the 2019-2020 academic year.”
Cumulatively, the school owes over $1.5 million in secured debt obligations. According to Green Fields’ 2016 nonprofit tax filings, the school’s total annual functional expenses were $2.4 million, whereas total revenue was $1.7 million, leading to an annual loss of over $600,000. This was a trend throughout the decade, with the school losing $548,000 in 2015, and experiencing similar losses in other years.
Green Fields traditionally relied on tuition to fund many of their programs, which ranged from roughly $10,000 to $15,000 per student. However, with a declining student body, Green Fields’ core income waned. While Green Fields accepted financial assistance via raffles, volunteering and alumni donations into their “Annual Fund,” these were not enough to stop the school’s gradual financial decline.
According to a Green Fields employee who wished to remain anonymous, the school saw a typical amount of students show interest in applying for the 2019-2020 school year, which is generally around 150 students. The annual tuition was already paid for multiple of these students.
According to Green Fields’ website: “All deposits and prepaid tuition will be eligible for repayment through the bankruptcy proceedings. How much is returned depends on the final sale price of the school’s property and the outcome of the process for repaying creditors in the order the court requires.”
Ultimately, the school grounds and all physical property will be sold. An estate sale open to the public will take place at an undecided date in the future. Following this estate sale, the 21-acre school grounds will be sold. Court documents place the value of this land between $3 and 4 million, plus roughly $100,000 in office fixtures and equipment.
Green Fields’ administration office will remain open through the end of July to help students and their families transfer school transcripts. Green Fields employees also provided a list of local schools the displaced students can transfer to, including Catalina Foothills, Wilson K-8 and the new Dove Mountain CSTEM school. However, because Green Fields’ closure was announced midsummer, some of these schools are only accepting admissions via lottery and waiting list.
According to Marshall, Green Fields announced the closure so late into the year because, “The board was working through every possible option for funding to keep the school open” and this process concluded the week of July 9.
As of print, the majority of Green Fields’ website is inaccessible and their social media has been disabled. A few staff members are volunteering to help students with the transition process. The school’s online accounts and office closed July 31.