School officials said Sunday that the Harlem School of the Arts, founded in 1964 by concert singer Dorothy Maynor, needs $500,000 by Wednesday or it will be forced to permanently close. The school shuttered suddenly on Friday, announcing that they would stop paying teachers and staff for a week and would cancel classes until this Saturday, according to the Daily News. Executive Director John Corwin said, "In order to continue our work, we need the commitment [of $500,000]."
Parents of students in the afterschool program are upset that they never learned of the financial troubles until Friday, and are now concerned they may never see their tuition again. Grandmother Roberta Long said, "They took my money and I heard nothing." Corwin told the New York Times that the school's board will “continue to tirelessly look for funds, in a much more public appeal than we have in the past.” The afterschool program has usually been financed through tuition, private donors and state grants, but the recent state of the economy has dried up a lot of the funds. Board chairman Christopher Paci said, “If an angel or group of angels come to the doorstep immediately we’ll be able to save the school. If not, then the reality is bleak, and that’s what we’re up against.”
The $500,000 would only keep the school open through June, though officials would not say how much was needed to keep it open for the year after that. The school teaches the fundamentals of art, dance, music and theater to about 3,000 students a year, and locals have been shocked by the closing. "It’s one of the pillars of the community," said one mom. However, dance instructor (and former student) Keith Lewis saw it coming. “When you look at the management of the school, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that it’s pure mismanagement."