Laying the foundation
STEPHENS CITY — Students from Legacy Christian Academy in Stephens City were delayed in getting to class Tuesday, after rain and ice made roads difficult to navigate. But by midmorning, all was right at the school.
Classes progressed as expected, and lunchtime seemed to arrive so quickly it caught School Board Secretary Kristina Simpson by surprise. Student-designed ornaments on a Christmas tree by the main office will raise money for school programs while lending to an already celebratory atmosphere.
In the old Bon Air Home at 5933 Valley Pike since Oct. 20, the nondenominational Christian school has much to celebrate this holiday season.
Because as with Tuesday’s two-hour delay, the school year also began with uncertainty for the present and with hopefulness for the future.
Previously a nursing home and before that a motel, the vacant building chosen by nine Legacy board trustees and school parents to house the school’s current 114 students barely resembles the structure it used to be.
Every two motel rooms along the lower school wing were combined to make classrooms, with walls knocked out, plumbing removed or diverted and windows along the hallway repurposed as bulletin board space.
Two closets near the front of the building later became a conference room, and at the rear of the school, former offices and a nurse’s station are now a cafeteria with a modern industrial kitchen serving students at lunchtime and catering to home economics classes.
But starting a new school isn’t free, and although the School Board has the school marching along so far, Simpson said it’s on a month-by-month basis. A capital campaign recently kicked off with the hope of raising $300,000 by next summer.
It’s a scary prospect, she said, but she and other board trustees have faith in their vision of a school that learns from and educates the community.
“I mean, you have a lot of business people on board, and it doesn’t make any sense to do what we’ve done in starting this school,” Simpson said.
“It doesn’t make any business sense, and yet we have managed.”
In August, while renovations were still underway, classes kicked off at area churches, said Marianne Poole, director of admissions and marketing. But staff and students didn’t feel displaced.
“God just put everything into place,” she said.
Scattered at three Middletown churches within a mile of each other, she said, they felt like they were on their own Middletown campus.
Part of the school’s mission is to be a service to the community, Simpson said.
“Before we could even help these churches, they were helping us,” she said.
Since then, area churches, schools and other organizations have continued to support Legacy through donations of equipment, supplies, time and money, but now at home on its 15 acres in Stephens City, the school has begun returning the favor.
A Thanksgiving luncheon at the school attracted more than 240 people, and when the school ran out of food to bring to the community, they brought cookies instead.
Students have gone in person to thank organizations for their contributions so far, and starting at 6:30 p.m. next Tuesday, the school will host area church leaders for evening religious services administrators hope will encourage a greater faith community.
Pastor Mike Blitch of First Baptist of Middletown will be the first to preside over a service at the school, and First Baptist of Middletown also will host Legacy’s Christmas program at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 19.
But the school stresses its nondenominational roots, even including in its bylaws that no more than two members of the board may attend the same church.
“We wanted to bring churches together,” Simpson said.
“We wanted a place that really felt open and safe to any denomination, to any person out there that might want to come to our school,” she said. “Together we are stronger, and then we wanted to impact the community.”
Legacy’s students come for various reasons, Simpson said — some for Bible class, but others come for smaller class sizes, a private school atmosphere or individualized studies.
“They learn cursive in first grade here,” she said.
Tuition ranges from $4,900 to $5,800, but tuition assistance is available.
“I think God has the people here who are supposed to be here,” said Simpson.
That goes for teachers as well, Poole said.
“They could go anywhere else and teach and make a lot more money,” she said.
But they teach at Legacy because they believe in the cause, Simpson explained. That’s how she said she feels as well.
“We’ve been planning this school for a year,” she said.
Parents of students who attended Shenandoah Valley Christian Academy, she and the eight other Legacy board members were inspired to start a new school after becoming aware of staffing changes Simpson said caught them off guard.
“When parents heard about it, they thought, ‘Man, we wish we had known there were issues with the budget. … We wish we had understood why.'”
“There were definitely things that led us to it,” she said, but “I don’t look at it as negative things. It was things that it’s so obvious this was God’s plan. … And certainly God has a plan for every Christian school out there, I believe. We’re just taking a different approach, that community approach.”
“We got this idea that, wow, wouldn’t it be great if as parents we could be part of the solution?”
Contact the school at 540-877-7336 or at http://www.legacychristian-academy.com.
Contact staff writer Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or email@example.com