August is when the staff at Wood Colony Brethren School in northwest Modesto usually begins gearing up for a new school season. But not this year. Declining enrollment because of the recession has led the private Christian school to close its doors for good.
It's the first time in 30 years the Finney Road property won't ring with the voices of children, said Amy Bauman, school secretary, whose parents, Bob and Dorothy Roesel, founded the school on their land.
Before Wood Colony began operating its kindergarten through high school program in the fall of 1998, the land was used by Brethren Heritage School, which opened with portables in 1979 and moved to another Modesto location in May 1998.
"At one time (Wood Colony) had 150 kids," Bauman said. "We had 55 students this past year. It's the economy. Parents' jobs are being eliminated. Several of our families had their own businesses and can no longer afford to pay tuition."
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She said Wood Colony was started by several Brethren churches in west Modesto "but it was nondenominational from the start. That was what was so exciting. We had kids from all over — Modesto, Ceres, Riverbank — and from all kinds of churches. To know that the body of Christ is made up of many different people and they fit together like a family is beautiful, and it was something seen at Wood Colony."
Bauman said most of the children are moving to charter or public schools, with some signing up at private Christian schools.
The silence will be hard, especially for her 75-year-old parents, Bauman said.
"It's kind of a closure of a dream," she said.
But there's also a sense of anticipation to see how the buildings next will be used, she added.
"We have a facility but no ministry at the moment," she said. "It's kind of exciting to see where God leads us, to see what ministry might have a need for our facility."
Wood Colony is the second private Christian school to close recently in the Modesto area. The economic downtown also was blamed when the 200-student Calvary Temple Academy closed its K-12 program in May 2008.
Bee staff writer Sue Nowicki can be reached at 578-2012 or firstname.lastname@example.org.