The ability for a church-sponsored school or a non-denominational school such as Faith Christian Academy (FCA) to exist depends on customers. That is you.
Church sponsored schools may receive subsidies from their congregations but at the end of the day, enough families must commit to the idea of Christian education to make it a reality. Even the ability of a church to underwrite the expenses of a school is not without limit. We know. This school was formed when Calvary Christian School (CCS) was closed by its host church following a prolonged decline in enrollment. Lifelong Learning Christian Academy closed in November 2014 due to a budget shortfall. Other Christian schools have come and gone over the years for the same reasons.
As we've written in this space before, starting a school is difficult but operating one is exponentially more so.
As Christian school parents we are, by nature, malcontents. Otherwise, our children would be committed to the secular public schools. However, we want more for our children. We want a strong spiritual foundation upon which academics are built. We want our children in a safe, bully-free environment. We want our children to be high achievers. We want them to be able to play sports and have extra-curricular activities. We want playgrounds with new swings and slides and monkey bars. We want our kids to make all A's. And we want the tuition to be cheap. Well. Sadly, depending on where a school is in it's life cycle, it is usually not possible to provide all of these things. It just isn't and so parents in search of the perfect schools often move their children from good ones. Sometimes over and over again.
Our experience with our predecessor school and with FCA is that it is often not possible to meet all of parents' expectations for a "full-service" school. It is exceedingly difficult, for example, to offer competitive athletic opportunities. As kids reach higher grades, they often transfer to public schools to play varsity sports, both male and female. Children with musical gifts often transfer to public schools or larger Christian schools in hopes of receiving fine arts scholarships. Academically gifted students often transfer to the highest performing public schools in hopes of earning academic scholarships to choice colleges. And so it goes.
After much prayer we decided from the beginning that FCA would be a school at which our students would be expected to aspire to character, excellence, and achievement. We selected the A Beka curriculum which is known for its incorporation of biblical truths in daily lessons but equally so for it's rigor in the primary grades. We set our grading scales consistent with the highest achieving schools. We thought outside the box by locating in a mall with a public library and onsite food service. We affiliated with the Holy Family Collegiate High School where an Associate's degree is earned during the junior and senior years of high school.
Then our teachers set about maintaining classrooms in which these high ideals were put into daily practice. Mr. Rucker, Ms. Iris, Ms. Shannon, Ms. Lisa, Ms. Darlene and Ms. Kari have- each of them- expected the best from our students. We require uniforms. We do not tolerate bullying and we use the PeaceBuilders principles. From bible memory verses to vocabulary words to reading comprehension to mathematics, we have prayed for, pushed and praised our students. Our students have earned their grades; they were never given an A or an F. For those efforts, on average, across all grades, our students have scored above grade level on the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills for the first two years after CCS closed. We expect this year's testing to be equally successful.
We've prayed hard, taught hard, fought hard, given hard, pinched pennies harder than any of us ever thought possible and been the recipients of generosity beyond all expectations. We've been blessed as a staff, as board members, as volunteers, and as parents. Yet, we find our school in need of more students in order to continue.
We have over five hundred followers on Facebook and over 250 followers on Twitter. We've been blessed with prayer warriors who have sustained this school with uplifting prayer and financial support. They have brought us this far but now we need you.
Frankly, we have lost students because of the path we felt God called us to follow. Based on feedback we've received both at CCS and now FCA, using the watered-down 60-70-80- 90-100 grading scale, reducing the number of spelling words to be memorized, dropping cursive writing, reducing the number of quizzes, reducing the amount of homework, and modifying the A Beka approach to classroom management would result in an immediate increase in enrollment. However, God doesn't always call us to do that which is easy. Lowering standards would eliminate our raison d'etre.
In the end, this school is brought to you, by you. If you value a traditional education where Christ is at the center, where much is expected and everything is earned, you must act. Now more than ever, with the secularization of public schools and the suppression of religion in the public square, Christian schools aren't a luxury, they are a necessity. And they require sacrifice for the good of your children. The tagline of CCS was "Educating for Eternity" and it is still true today. You may need to eat out less, drive an older car, do without a vacation, do without a boat or RV or off-road vehicle. Really, though, what is the cost of that sacrifice when measured against worth of your child's eternal soul?
Register your child today or schools like FCA might not be here for you tomorrow.