SACO, Maine — After hearing their school was eliminating eight positions due to budget cuts, students at Thornton Academy wanted to take action.
Which is why seniors at the private school in Saco are planning to walk out of their classes Wednesday afternoon in protest.
While its international and private-pay programs remain strong, school officials say they have seen a drop in public enrollment over the course of a decade and data shows that number could get even smaller.
"The current scenario is a result of the dip in the school-aged child population in our sending municipalities," TA communications director Katie Beane said in an email to NEWS CENTER Maine. "It's a reflection of a state-wide trend that has impacted many other schools, public and private alike."
In 2017, TA's total public enrollment for the middle and upper school was 1,383 students. According to data provided from the school, that number dropped by 78 students this year and they anticipate another 59 students to leave by 2020.
"This decrease of 137 students in just four years represents a significant loss of revenue and this decrease in public enrollment is expected to continue for several years." Beane said. "We are seeing staffing adjustments in response to this trend in schools state-wide."
Some of the backlash stemming from the community surrounds the renovations set to be made on the school's athletic complex. Students have said they don't feel the administration is truly listening to their wants and needs for the school and wonder why an investment like that is being made if the school is down in funding.
According to the school, the update to the complex is greatly needed. They say the renovation is long overdue, pointing out the the current gymnasium was built back in 1963.
"It will address its limiting size constraints," Beane said. "A necessary campus update, especially considering the growth the school has seen in the last several decades."
School officials say they are not able to release specifics surrounding the positions that are being eliminated, but could release that the cuts are impacting eight positions; a part-time instructor and seven non-teaching positions.
"While a change in staffing was necessary, Thornton Academy’s commitment to excellence in education, the arts, and athletics is steadfast," Beane said. "Every effort was made to minimize the educational impact on students and teachers."
The school says 504 of its 506 courses currently offered at the school will stay intact. However, two of the STEM courses will be discontinued. They say no arts faculty were part of the reduction and all arts, athletics and other programs will remain offered at TA.
Those faculty members let go are expected to be paid at least through their contracts, which end on June 30, 2019. The school says it let those faculty members go ahead of the end of their contract to give them the most time possible to find their next opportunity.
The email from TA also included this statement from the school's headmaster, Rene Menard.
“This issue involves people who are admired and appreciated throughout the Thornton Academy community. Their contributions are significant and appreciated, and we regret having to make these difficult, but necessary budgetary and staffing decisions. Every effort was made to minimize the impact this reduction will make on the educational experience of students, and to ensure that Thornton Academy maintains the quality and breadth of opportunities for students, now and in the future.”
This story will be updated.