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Bankruptcy closes Green Fields School after 86 years

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Bankruptcy closes Green Fields School after 86 years

  • An aerial view of the Green Fields property.
    Pima CountyAn aerial view of the Green Fields property.

Green Fields School in Northwest Tucson doesn't have enough money to remain open for the coming school year. The private academy has closed, and the school grounds will be sold off, representatives said.

The school has been losing more than $500,000 each year, records show.

"Green Fields is closing, effective today," said Anthony Marshall, president of the nonprofit school's board of trustees. "The school has not been able to put in place funding that would guarantee its ability to remain open for the full 2019-2020 school year."

"The board worked exhaustively to put in place a viable plan during recent months. Those efforts continued up through this past weekend. We have exhausted every option that would allow us to continue. Therefore, Green Fields will not open in August," he wrote on a notice posted on the school's website.

A small number of staffers will work through July to assist parents with student records and recommendations, Marshall said.

The first day of school had been set for August 14. Green Fields had offered classes from kindergarten through high school, with tuition ranging from $9,900 for kindergarten students through $16,000 for high-schoolers. About 40 percent of families sending kids to the school received some assistance with tuition, the school previously said. Tax filings showed an increasing amount of scholarship funds being paid: up from $70,000 granted to 75 recipients in 2015 to $195,000 to 86 students in 2017, even as the school's losses mounted.

Most of the school's website had been switched off on Tuesday, and the Green Fields Facebook page had been taken down.

Marshall didn't respond to questions Tuesday about how many students had been attending the school, how large the budget hole is, or how many faculty and staff were losing their jobs. The most recent cache of the school's website showed seven administrators, 10 "lower school" teachers and aides, and 15 "middle and upper school" teachers, and two staffers. The school reported "roughly 150 students" on its cached website.

The school, also known as Green Fields Country Day School, had $2.1 million in revenues in 2014, with a loss of $76,000, tax filings show. Revenues were down to $1.5 million in 2016, with a loss of $549,000. Even a slight bump up in revenues to $1.7 million in 2017, the most recent year publicly available, didn't forestall a loss of $676,000.

The school used to have more than $200,000 held in endowment funds, but exhausted the bulk of that in 2015. Green Fields held just $178 in endowment money in 2017.

The school's land and buildings, at 6000 N. Camino de la Tierra, near River Road, are estimated to be worth in the range of $4.5 million, tax documents show. The property is zoned for commercial use as a school.

Green Fields' board "voted to commence bankruptcy proceedings," Marshall said. "The school's property will be put on the market immediately. Proceeds from that sale will be used to repay Green Fields' creditors, including families who have paid tuition for the coming year, as well as its lenders and vendors. That sale process will take a number of months, and disbursement amounts will depend on necessary rezoning activities and net proceeds ultimately received."

Boarding school opened in 1933

Green Fields was founded as a boarding school in 1933 on an alfalfa farm, and was originally known as the Circle Double A Green Fields Preparatory School for Boys. It was reportedly the first independent private school in Arizona.

In the 1960s, it stopped being a boarding school and began accepting female students, and expanded to offering high school classes. The first high school graduating class received their diplomas in 1969.

The school changed its name to Green Fields Country Day School in 1979.

Among Green Field's notable alumni are Kerri Strug, the former Olympic gymnast; author Mark Poirier; and TV producer and screenwriter Blake Masters.

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