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American Boychoir School to Look for New Location and Funding Sources for Next Academic Year

american boychhoirThe leadership at the American Boychoir School is seeking a location it can afford and new funding sources in order to open again in the fall.

After the school’s graduation ceremony on Sunday, the board of trustees for the school met for six hours to discuss the future of the American Boychoir School.

“For many months, Board members have been working closely with the administration on plans for the future, and that work has continued even throughout the present crisis. Our mission is to educate the boys and to form their character. We remain totally committed to that mission, and that is why we will not begin another school year unless we know we can finish it,” reads the latest update from Rob D’Avanzo, chairman of the school’s board of trustees.

“The Board recognizes that, to reopen in September, the School will need both new sources of funding and a location that can provide the necessary operating space at a cost we can afford,” writes D’Avanzo. “On the funding side, it is important to keep in mind that annual fundraising is a critical part of any school’s budget. This is especially the case at ABS, where so many of our students receive scholarships that reduce the School’s net tuition income. But we know all too well that operating annually without a financial reserve is perilous, no matter how deeply we wish to continue delivering the School’s incredible programming. Therefore, we will need significant leadership gifts in amounts considerably higher than even the most generous gifts that we receive during our typical annual fundraising effort.”

Over the next several weeks, the board will look at whether it can secure acceptable facilities and the financial commitments necessary to restructure the school.

“When I wrote to you on April 10, I said that we would need $3 million to continue. Many of you have asked me whether we need all of that money in hand even before we can reopen,” writes D’Avanzo “We do not, but we believe prudence necessitates that we obtain $1 million of committed funds to consider opening the School next year.”

Last month, the school filed for bankruptcy and shortened the academic year because of the finance issues.

The American Boychoir School, a music boarding school and day school, is one of only two boychoir boarding schools in the United States. The school serves boys in grades 4-8 from across the United States and other countries. The school was fictionalized in the 2014 movie “Boychoir.”

The choir and school were founded in Columbus, Ohio in 1937. Founded originally as the Columbus Boychoir, the group moved to Princeton in 1950 and changed its name to the American Boychoir School in 1980.

In April, 2002, The New York Times published a story detailing sexual abuse that took place at the Boychoir School several decades earlier. A former student sued the school. The school contended that the state’s charitable immunity act protected it from liability in sexual abuse lawsuits brought by former students. In 2006 the New Jersey Supreme Court found that the Charitable Immunity Act immunizes charities for negligence only and does not bar statutory or common-law claims that are based on willful, wanton or grossly negligent conduct.

The American Boychoir School was located on Lambert Drive in Princeton until 2012. The school then sold the property and moved to Plainsboro, where it has been leasing space at the former St. Joseph’s Seminary.

The full text of D’Avanzo’s most recent update:

At the beginning of April, the American Boychoir School faced the most serious financial crisis in its history. Rather than closing the School immediately, the Board of Trustees voted unanimously to seek the protections of Chapter 11 of the Federal Bankruptcy Code in the hope that the ABS community would be able to finance the School’s operations through the end of the school year. The community answered the Board’s call, raising more than $350,000 in just five weeks’ time.

This support has enabled all of our boys and their teachers to create lasting memories during the past few weeks. The Concert Choir toured the country in late April. All of the boys completed four masterful performances of Leonard Bernstein’s MASS with the Philadelphia Orchestra. The Training Choir went on a tour of its own, during which it performed for New Jersey Senator Cory Booker in Washington, D.C. Finally, the school year culminated this past weekend with a series of celebrations: a red-carpet premiere of the movie Boychoir in Princeton Friday; an alumni concert, gala and auction Saturday; and a moving graduation ceremony Sunday afternoon. All of this has validated the Board’s April decision, and everyone in the ABS community deserves great credit and thanks for what we have achieved together in the past few weeks.

After Sunday’s graduation ceremony, the Board met for six hours to discuss the future. For many months, Board members have been working closely with the administration on plans for the future, and that work has continued even throughout the present crisis.

Our mission is to educate the boys and to form their character. We remain totally committed to that mission, and that is why we will not begin another school year unless we know we can finish it.

The Board recognizes that, to reopen in September, the School will need both new sources of funding and a location that can provide the necessary operating space at a cost we can afford. On the funding side, it is important to keep in mind that annual fundraising is a critical part of any school’s budget. This is especially the case at ABS, where so many of our students receive scholarships that reduce the School’s net tuition income. But we know all too well that operating annually without a financial reserve is perilous, no matter how deeply we wish to continue delivering the School’s incredible programming. Therefore, we will need significant leadership gifts in amounts considerably higher than even the most generous gifts that we receive during our typical annual fundraising effort.

In the coming weeks, the Board will be focused on whether it can secure both acceptable facilities and the financial commitments necessary to restructure the School. When I wrote to you on April 10, I said that we would need $3 million to continue. Many of you have asked me whether we need all of that money in hand even before we can reopen. We do not, but we believe prudence necessitates that we obtain $1 million of committed funds to consider opening the School next year.

The Board has met regularly over the past several weeks, and it will continue to do so. In the interim, we take very seriously our stewardship of the School, and so we are taking necessary steps to reduce expenses while we consider plans for the future.

There are many ideas for what form the School’s future might take, and there is a lot of work to do over a short period of time for us to be able to make final decisions. We realize that parents, students and our staff members will need to make their own plans for next year as soon as possible, and we hope to be able to update you about our progress by June 1.

Until then, on behalf of the Board and all of us at the School, please accept my sincere thanks for your inspiring commitment to our mission.

Sincerely,

Rob D’Avanzo,
Chairman of the Board of Trustees

Krystal Knapp

Krystal Knapp is the founding editor of Planet Princeton. She can be reached via email at editor AT planetprinceton.com. Send all letters to the editor and press releases to that email address.

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