SANDPOINT — A therapeutic boarding school in Montana that has ties to Bonner County has abruptly shut down.
Patrick and Michelle McKenna, founders of the Monarch School in Heron, released a statement on Sept. 15 that the school was immediately ceasing operations.
“We can no longer sustain the number of students we need to continue our work,” the couple said in a statement posted to a Bonners Ferry website called strugglingteens.com.
The school’s website is now a landing page for requesting academic transcripts.
The McKennas incorporated the business in 2000, according to Idaho Secretary of State business entity records. Patrick McKenna served the company’s president, while Michelle McKenna served as secretary.
In the statement, Patrick McKenna said opening the school was a dream come true and credits it for saving lives.
“In 17 years, there have been many changes at Monarch School, many changes in the population of students and families that we have been serving and many, many wonderful people who have dedicated so many years of their lives at Monarch School. It has been an amazing journey that we will carry with us for the rest of our lives. Thank you for being a part of our dream and our memories,” the statement said.
Parents of students enrolled at the school said they were blindsided by the closure and were left with only two days to enroll their children in another school or send them home. The closure also reportedly took the staff by surprise, although some believe if there was under-enrollment at the school they would have been aware of it.
Some parents are also trying to claw back $7,800-per-month enrollment fees they paid and considering litigation.
The school has long had a connection to Bonner County. It was originally started in Sandpoint before relocating to Heron. It drew employees from Bonner County and the school’s students would play varsity sports in Clark Fork.
Neither Patrick McKenna nor Michelle McKenna could be reached for comment on Friday. A message left at the school was not immediately returned.