Island Christian School Fights to Survive


Island Christian School Fights to Survive - A sign on the side of a building - Island Christian School
Island Christian School has served the community since 1974. With numbers down, an effort is underway to get more full-time paying students to enroll. JIM McCARTHY/Keys Weekly

Dropping enrollment numbers have Island Christian School’s viability in jeopardy, but a last-minute effort is underway to keep the facility open and running past the 2018-19 school year.

Senior Pastor Trevor Mann issued and read a letter to the Island Community Church congregation during a recent service regarding the reality facing the school, namely the financial challenges from the 2008 recession and Hurricane Irma to changing demographics in the Keys. The real estate trend and families picking up and leaving were other factors noted.

“I think the school is open to suggestions and input on how to keep the school open. They’ve run all the scenarios they can on their end,” said Jessica Vandervoort of Marathon. Her son in eighth grade has attended Island Christian School all but three years, when he was home schooled.

Vandervoort said she and her husband chose ICS because of the quality of their instruction, as opposed to a focus on testing. “Also, we wanted him to have a Christ-centered education,” she said.

Today, 107 students are enrolled at ICS. If the school enrolls 145 full-paying students in grades kindergarten to 12th, receives donations of at least $400,000 or gets a substantial combination of the two, ICS will continue through the next school year. However, those target goals need to be met by March 1or else the school will close at the end of the 2018-19 school year.

“We would much rather have students than donations,” Mann told the Weekly. “One, we are here to share the love of Jesus with students while giving them a great education. Two, money will only buy us another year. While we would use the next school year to increase enrollment, we don’t want people to be misled about their investment. We would be looking at the same problem next year if enrollment doesn’t increase.”

Mann said church elders and the financial advisory board have met since last summer over possible options to keep the school open, including a pre-K to sixth-grade model. Mann said there was no sustainable pre-K to 12th grade models with fewer than 145 students.

Terri White, head of ICS, told the Weekly she issued a letter informing parents that the school will continue to educate students through the end of the school year. She says she wants everyone to stay unified through the challenging time.

“We’re not giving up on our children,” White said. “My letter was to tell parents we are staying committed to the end and they can count on us to provide a quality education.”

ICS has served the community since 1974. Like Mann, White said the economy is playing a major factor in enrollment numbers not only at ICS, but other schools as well.

Former students and ICS parents took to social media to share their responses to the news. Milly Mamorsh, whose son went to ICS, said she would never have enough words to thank Island Christian for her son’s education.

Amy Rosasco has been an Island Christian School parent for 13 years. Her daughter graduated from the school and now attends Florida State University. Her two sons are currently enrolled in fourth and seventh grades.

“The kids learn Christian values and talk about God openly,” she said. “So, we’re very saddened by this news and praying for a miracle.” Rosasco said the school has lost teachers and students since Hurricane Irma. “I’m not surprised by this news, but we are very concerned.”

“The school went through so much before I came,” Mann said. “My first year, we were getting our curriculum online and teachers working together. We had so many things cause disruption, especially with Irma. This year, the quality of our education was up but enrollment down based on everything happening through the years and Irma.”

Mann said they’re thankful for the parents, students, staff and community for making Island Christian School the pillar that it is. He said the school has received countless encouraging messages and phone calls from former staff, students, parents and others who lives were positively changed by ICS.

On Tuesday, Feb. 19, there will be a meeting at Family Life Center gymnasium for parents and the community to come up with ideas and suggestions on how to keep the school open and going. Carrie Tudor, local resident who sends two kids to ICS, told the Weekly that everyone is encourage to attend.

“We love this school and we don’t want to see it end,” she said.

Jim McCarthy is one of the many Western New Yorkers who escaped the snow and frigid temperatures for warm living by the water. A former crime & court reporter and city editor for two Western New York newspapers, Jim has been honing his craft since he graduated from St. Bonaventure University in 2014. In his 4-plus years in the Keys, Jim has enjoyed connecting with the community. “One of my college professors would always preach to be curious,” he said. “Behind every person is a story that’s unique to them, and one worth telling. As writers, we are the ones who paint the pictures in the readers minds of the emotions, the struggles and the triumphs.” Jim is past president of the Key Largo Sunset Rotary Club, which is composed of energetic members who serve the community’s youth and older populations. Jim is a sports fanatic who loves to watch football, hockey, mixed martial arts and golf. He also enjoys time with family and his new baby boy, Lucas, who arrived Oct. 4, 2022.