By AT News Team, Jan. 15, 2015:     On Sunday (Jan. 11) delegates to a special constituency meeting of the Adventist denomination’s Ohio Conference voted 257 to 82 to close Mount Vernon Academy (MVA) unless $3 million is raised by March 10. MVA is the oldest Adventist boarding secondary school. It began operations in 1893. Only the day academy in Battle Creek, Michigan, has operated longer.

If the $3 million in donations does not come in, MVA will cease operations at the end of the 2014-15 school year. The deadline was recommended by the conference’s executive committee after a special commission took a hard look at the financial condition and enrollment possibilities of the school.

Although the delegates voted to place “great value on providing long-term Adventist secondary education for the constituents,” it insisted on fiscal responsibility. The $3 million must be raised without sale of real estate or other assets and if it comes in a plan must developed by March 15 “a sustainable future” for the school.

If MVA is closed down, the conference executive committee was assigned to “develop alternative options for secondary education for current and future Ohio Conference students including funding options and scholarships.”

“It takes $3 million to operate Mount Vernon Academy annually” said a statement from the Ohio Conference. “If that money can be raised by March 10 … the school would enter the 2015-16 school year debt free with the necessary working capital.”

“Whatever happens, secondary education remains a priority in the Ohio Conference, and we will continue to seek ways to provide the opportunity for our young people to access quality, Adventist Christian education,” the statement continued. “The situation … has precipitated a conversation about Adventist education that we will continue to pursue—with union and division leadership and locally within the Ohio Conference family. Together we need to figure out how to make Adventist education viable—now and in the future.”

Enrollment in Adventist schools across North America is in decline simply because of the aging of the Adventist membership. A smaller and smaller percentage of Adventist families have school-age children with the majority of members now over 50 years of age. Although some have ascribed this decrease to a decline in dedication to Christian education, surveys taken in 1985 and 2004 show the same level of support among Adventist parents for sending their children to Adventist schools.

Surveys have shown that fewer Adventist parents are now willing to send children to a boarding school during their early teen years. The market for boarding school for teenagers has nearly disappeared among Adventists in North America.

Readers who would like to give financial support to MVA may contact Ohio Conference interim treasurer Lyle Litzenberger at (740) 397-4665, or by Email at treasurer@ohioadventist.org or by paper mail at Box 1230, Mount Vernon, OH 43050. Donations can also be made online at www.ohioadventist.org (earmarked for “secondary education—special”).