Out of money to pay teachers, a private school in Eagan announced this week that it will shut down Friday, leaving families scrambling to make plans for their children.
Low enrollment and cash-flow problems led to the decision to close the Tesseract School, which has 118 students in preschool through sixth grade, school director Chuck McGill said Thursday. "The current economy has really affected our enrollment," he said. Enrollment was down 25 percent this year, and projections for this fall looked "even worse than that." School officials plan to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, he said.
Tesseract's board of directors decided to close the school early this week after meeting with bankruptcy attorneys last Friday, he said. Teachers learned of the plan Tuesday, and parents were told Wednesday in e-mails from the school and sealed letters sent home with students.
The news surprised even parents such as Heather Duvall, whose husband was on the board until he resigned two weeks ago for unrelated reasons. Tesseract officials have been telling families for months about the school's woes, she said, but as recently as February, they decided to go ahead with plans for next year based on the number of parents who put down deposits, according to the letter received by parents.
Many parents are angry, Duvall said, but she feels only "extreme sadness" about the closure. "Tesseract is an amazing school," she said. "They are a true family."
Small class sizes were a hallmark of the school, where tuition was just over $13,000 this year, McGill said.
June 8 was to have been the last day of class. Tesseract has a "fairly long" school day, he said, so students will have met state guidelines for minimum instructional time this school year by Friday, he said.
Even so, board members said in the letter that they know working parents may have to find new schools right away. The school has arranged for representatives from other public and private schools and day cares to visit Friday to help with the transition.
The school, near the intersection of Cedar Avenue and Hwy. 13, was founded in 1987 by executives of Educational Alternatives Inc., later renamed the Tesseract Group. The company filed for bankruptcy in 2000, but parents raised money to buy it and formed a nonprofit to run it.
Tesseract has had a cash-flow deficit for years, paying bills partly out of deposits for summer school and the following year's classes, McGill said. The school had been digging its way out of that hole, but projections for enrollment this summer and fall sealed its fate.
In the end, school officials not only decided against keeping Tesseract open this summer, but found that they were unable to make payroll as of Friday.
Unpaid bills such as staff paychecks will be dealt with through the bankruptcy settlement, he said. For parents who have made deposits for next year, the school "will provide tax deductible donation letters for those that choose ... not [to] wait for the bankruptcy process to unfold," the letter said.
Sarah Lemagie • 952-882-9016