Two longtime Madison Christian schools — one thriving, one ailing — announced plans to consolidate Monday.
High Point Christian School, which has a waiting list, will take over the administration and operation of Abundant Life Christian School, which has seen its enrollment drop by half in 10 years.
The change, to occur this fall, is expected to involve an unspecified number of layoffs at Abundant Life, and all teachers there will be required to reapply for their jobs, according to school officials.
The schools will retain their names and facilities but will share a principal and other administrative functions, said the Rev. Tom Flaherty, lead pastor of City Church, which owns Abundant Life and sought the other school's help.
"We realized that, financially, we were not going to be able to sustain the school as it was," Flaherty said.
Abundant Life has been battered by the recession and faced dwindling options if it didn't seek help, such as possibly closing its high school, he said. Founded in 1978, the school, at 4901 E. Buckeye Road on the city's Far East Side, has 211 students this year in grades pre-kindergarten through 12.
The school has room for 600. Its enrollment peaked at 478 in 2000, said spokeswoman Barbara Wiers.
High Point Christian School, founded in 1975, is on the city's Far West Side at 7702 Old Sauk Road. It has 220 students in grades K-8 and more than 40 in its preschool. Most of its grades have waiting lists.
For Abundant Life, the consolidation will save administrative costs, and it offers the prospect of gaining some of High Point's overflow. Buses will run between the two schools.
The benefits for High Point are less clear. The Rev. Nic Gibson, lead pastor of High Point Church, said his church will end up paying about $10,000 more annually in administrative and other costs. The consolidation is somewhat counter-intuitive for his church, since "essentially we'll be strengthening our competition, which you generally don't want to do," he said.
But he sees a larger good in making sure a private, Christian education remains a viable option for as many Madison families as possible. "We were asked for help by our brothers and sisters, and we have the ability to help them."
Gibson said his church is in the difficult position of coming in as essentially an outside consultant to determine why Abundant Life is struggling. As an aspect of that, all teachers will be required to reapply for positions for the 2012-13 school year, he said.
Flaherty said he understands why such an approach is necessary. "They're trying to make it the best school possible, and they want to ensure there is a strong teacher in each position," he said.