NEW MUNSTER (WITI) -- It's been a community staple for more than a hundred years, but now it's in crisis mode and in danger of shutting its doors for good.
St. Alphonsus School is facing a major budget deficit, one they say could force them to soon shut the small school down.
It sprouted from small beginnings.
"It was a one room school house run by the sisters here," said Jill Ott, parent volunteer.
That was back in 1863; Saint Alphonsus School has grown a bit since then and now sits at the core of the New Munster area community.
"This is home, this really is just our heart, our community," said Ott.
Affectionately called "Saint Al's", a $70,000 budget deficit is threatening to shut the school down.
"If we can't identify methods of raising some funds to get us out of a deficit situation and attracting students, families really, families who value the education that they would get here. There is certainly a dire possibility that we will close," said Sonja Bigley, Chair of Parish Council.
School advocates say they're hoping to convince more families of the value of an education at the school, thereby bringing in more students. They're also scrambling to try and raise funds through events like a bookfair.
"I just think it's a fantastic opportunity for someone who's looking for a more close knit, more intimate type of education," said Ott.
FOX6 News is told the school has a little more than 50 students, ranging from Pre-K up through 8th grade.
"I learned discipline, respect, I learned it all from this school," said Brian Kretschmer, alumnus.
Kretschmer is now a college senior and volunteer firefighter. He came back on Saturday to support the effort to spread the word about the school's troubles.
"This school, I mean even though it is small n ow, this school brings a lot of people together," said Kretschmer.
Should the school shut down, perhaps it's that role of fostering community that its families and graduates would most miss.
"These kids really feel like, oh this is my community, I believe here, I should help take care of it. I should be a part of it," said Ott.
FOX6 News asked why the school doesn't just raise tuition to solve the deficit problem. They say a tuition bump is likely in the future, but they also want to keep the place accessible to area families.
Currently, the cost is about $2,300 a year.
To learn more about St. Alphonsus School, CLICK HERE.