This Ubiquitous Recession: Schools on Brink, No-Kill Shelter Considered Killing Cats

This weekend, I popped into the Arts Academy of Hollywood to pick up a schedule, only to be told by staff that due to declining enrollment, they were closing that very afternoon. The school normally has about 800 students in classes at any given time, but that number had dropped to about 200 since the economic downturn began last fall, an employee explained. Even with the landlord offering a break on rent, the school couldn't afford to pay for salaries and electricity.

School owner Linda Strutz wrote in a letter to families that she plans to attend the Community Redevelopment Association meeting Friday March 20th in a last-ditch effort to ask for funding. She pleaded for families to attend in a show of support.

Feeling glum, I went home and checked my Facebook account, only to find a plea from a group called "Help Save St Stephen Catholic School in Miramar, FL."

The school will close in June if it doesn't have 300 students registered by March 31. Every morning at 8:15, members of the school community pray the rosary and walk the grounds, hoping for a miracle.  "The Lord hears the cry of the poor," fundraising materials say. 

Then I opened my email to learn that the Adopt-A-Cat Foundation in Lake Park -- a no-kill shelter -- was considering the unimaginable: putting some cats to sleep. "We are in deep financial debt," wrote founder Inga Hanley, who has a home full of three-legged and blind cats who are otherwise unadoptable, and even sacrificed her marriage for the critters. (Her ex-husband moved out, she says, because "he didn't want to live in a shelter. I don't blame him.")

After a push this past weekend, Hanley says she managed to get 100 cats adopted, but she still needs $50,000 to keep her operation going. "My heart is bursting," she said, after seeing all the cat lovers who came out to help. "People, even if they couldn't adopt, left a little check -- or some left a big check." She also directed people to the foundation's thrift store at 804 US 1 in Lake Park, which is definitely open for business. At this point, Hanley says, "If [the kittens and cats] have to go down, I'll hold them, but I don't think we're going to have to." At least not now.

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