ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — A St. Paul school, started by German immigrants more than 100 years ago, could soon be forced to close.

Central Lutheran School on Lexington Parkway is facing a financial crisis and is asking for help.

The staff started a fundraising campaign on GoFundMe.

Teachers have been receiving only a portion of their paychecks, in order to keep the school open.

Children enjoying recess are a sharp contrast to the angst that the staff at Central Lutheran School are feeling. Declining enrollment and a drop in funding have created a crisis.

Back in the 1950s and ’60s, the school boasted nearly 600 students. Today about 80 children make up their K-8th grade classes.

“Back in the 2008 recession is when we took a big dip,” Principal Elizabeth Wegner said. “Enrollment, everything. That’s when our churches struggled as well, because giving was down at our churches.”

The amount of debt the school is facing has administrators turning to the generosity of the community.

“The magnitude of the financial crisis is thus that we’ve have had to start a GoFundMe page. I mean it’s big,” Wegner said.

Since last Thursday they’ve raised just a few thousand of the $450,000 they say they need.

At times, Principal Wegner has worked without pay. And since January, teachers have accepted just a portion of what they are actually owed in their paychecks.

“I will put out an email that says something like, ‘OK, this is what I can do for payroll. This time through, it’s going to be this percent,'” Wegner said.

The school has also seen a dramatic jump in the number of students who can’t pay the full $3,500 tuition and need financial aid.

“We don’t want to turn anyone away even though we need to take some money as well. So it puts us in a hard situation. But that mission is so important to us,” Pastor Nick Kooi said.

If you’d like to help Central Lutheran School, click here.

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