KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — For the first time in Knoxville College's 140-year history, there are no students on its campus for the fall semester.
School officials made the decision in April to close for a year so leadership can plan a way forward for the struggling college.
Buildings are shuttered, except for the library, where volunteers have been cleaning and sifting through books in hopes students will return next year, The News Sentinel reported (http://bit.ly/1UvmjfI).
College leaders informed the state in March the school planned to halt classes to reorganize the administration and focus on fundraising. The historically black college had only 11 students in last year's spring semester. It faces millions of dollars of debt and has shuttered buildings on its 39-acre campus.
"Emotionally, it's been hard," said the Rev. James Reese, chairman of the college's board of trustees. "It's tough sometimes to hear people respond, you know, with, 'You don't have any students, so what do you need money for?' I tell them we need the money to be able to soon bring students."
Reese said the college still plans to hold fall semester classes in 2016.
College leaders hope the fall homecoming celebration next month will generate enthusiasm. Officials will give an update on plans, Reese said, including specific projects that need funding.
A decision on the future of the campus could come as soon as the homecoming, he said.
The college has cycled through three presidents in the past 18 months and last summer endured a three-week cleanup by the Environmental Protection Agency after chemicals found in an abandoned science building were deemed a public health risk.
Information from: Knoxville News Sentinel, http://www.knoxnews.com