Kansas military school to close, citing low enrollment and legal cases

Posted: Updated:
SALINA, Kan. (KAKE) -

A military school in north-central Kansas is closing for good after 131 years.

St. John's Military School made the announcement Wednesday. The Salina school will continue to operate until May 11 and hold a celebration during this year's commencement weekend. 

A release from the school says school leaders have tried to sustain St. John's, but the landscape of education has changed dramatically resulting in lower enrollment and unsustainable higher costs of operations.

"This, combined with St. John's having unfairly become a target for legal cases and negatively biased and misleading portrayals by some media outlets, has created an insurmountable situation that school leaders have been unable to overcome," the release says.

Filing: Kansas military school failed to supervise cadets

Lawsuit alleges sexual assault at Kansas military school

Below is a letter from board chairman Randall Hope and school president William Clark:

Dear Parents, Alumni, and Friends of SJMS:

Please know that we pen this note with heavy hearts.

With deep regret, the Board of Trustees of St. John’s Military School announces that the school will not reopen after the conclusion of the current 2018-2019 school year. This decision has not been made lightly, as considerable research, thought, contemplation, discussion, and prayer have factored into this arduous decision.

St. John’s has enjoyed serving young men and their families for 131 years. Thousands of young men who have attended the school have gone on to become loving husbands and fathers, making significant contributions to our society. SJMS is a place that is considered a home to thousands of Old Boys across the United States and the world. We are saddened beyond measure that the faithful Old Boys and cadets of today who love St. John’s and treasure the memories and lessons learned at the school, are now being asked to accept the closure of this historical and sacred place. For numerous years, school leaders have sought many strategies to sustain St. John’s, including: various marketing and recruiting efforts, the encouragement of cadet referrals, tuition discounts, summer camp programs, and even changes to internal school operations to gain efficiencies. However, the school has only remained open due to the generosity of a few key donors and by drawing upon the school’s endowment fund to supplement the operational budget. Unfortunately, the endowment fund is no longer a viable option, as these funds have been expended.

The dedication and commitment, as well as the love and compassion of the school’s staff and faculty for the young men who enter the gates of St. John’s is undeniable. The small class sizes and ratio of adults to cadets has allowed the school to provide young men with unique educational and leadership opportunities and guidance over an extended period of time. The desire to maintain an environment described above, coupled with the school’s recent legal issues and a low enrollment resulting from negative and unfair portrayals in the media has created a deficit we, regrettably, simply cannot overcome. Although many generous families and individuals have made contributions, gifts, and donations to the school, we cannot reliably attract enough donors to close the financial gap.

The Board of Trustees has chosen to make this difficult decision and announcement at this point in time to allow current families and staff as much time as possible to make other plans for next school year. This letter is being sent in advance of Parents Weekend to allow current families time to formulate their questions and concerns, which will be addressed at the President’s Forum on Friday, February 15; the forum will be dedicated to this topic. Our goal is to provide an opportunity for face-to-face communications on this challenging topic with members of the Board of Trustees and the school’s administration.

As part of Parents Weekend, we have invited several other military schools to be present on Saturday and Sunday to provide families with an opportunity to discuss the follow-on year should you like to do so. We have also invited other educational consultants to be present as well in case you desire to pursue options outside of a military school. St. John’s faculty and staff will offer as much assistance as possible to families placing sons in other schools. School administrators will also assist staff and faculty in seeking future employment.

St. John’s Military School will continue to operate through the remainder of the current school year. Daily routines will be maintained, and the education and leadership opportunities offered to our cadets will remain robust.

Old Boys and Alumni share strong bonds of brotherhood. This bond will be celebrated during 2019 Commencement Activities. Old Boys, Alumni, and past faculty and staff please watch for additional information about this celebration. Please plan to attend.

Once again, the decision and announcement is not an easy one for all parties. St John’s has been instrumental in the development of so many young men over the past 131 years. The school is a loved institution; our school family – past and present – has been, and always will be, united by the mission of the school: provide each cadets with the opportunity to grow spiritually, morally, intellectually, and physically in a structured environment. Our memories of times shared together at St. John’s will always remain – SJMS FOREVER!