By Grant Bissell

St. Louis (KSDK) - A south St. Louis school is in crisis. St. John the Baptist Catholic School is $250,000 in debt and is facing a grim future.

Now, an emergency fundraiser is underway to keep these doors from being closed forever.

Time is running out for the school. If it doesn't come up with the money by early next year the classrooms could be permanently empty.

This year there are 180 students enrolled at the school. Hailey Burton is a special needs student in the Learning Center.

"The learning center is a big part of my life. When I have a hard time I talk to the teacher and she helps me with it," said Burton.

"It's her foundation, you know? She wouldn't be able to function in a city school or a place where she was in a larger class," said her mom, Kathy Burton.

Kathy Burton just learned about St. John's troubles on Wednesday. The school is sending letters to thousands of parents, alumni, and parishioners asking for help.

The parish's website also has a page explaining the school's quarter-million dollar deficit.

"Declining enrollment, the cost of salaries goes up, healthcare goes up, utilities go up," said Principal Nancy Haselhorst.

According to the Archdiocese of St. Louis, enrollment at St. John the Baptist has dropped by a third over the last three years. Fewer students means fewer tuition dollars.

The school has already received a sizable donation from a local company, but still needs help reaching its goal.

Kathy Burton's family is praying for a miracle, and taking action to avoid disaster.

"We're going to try to do some fundraising ourselves, I think and see what we can do. I know every penny's gonna count," she said.

The school is accepting donations and pledges on its website. Pledges need to be made by December 31, 2012 and the school is asking for payment by March 1, 2013.

Regardless of whether the fundraising goal is met, the school will stay open for the rest of this year.