Centralia Christian School is working hard to provide more options for its students this school year as the program expands to offer ninth and 10th grade as well as all-day preschool.
So far, eight students are enrolled in the high school classes, a blended program that will offer face-to-face teaching and online learning in the afternoons.
The university model program will run three days a week on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
Principal Ann Stout said long-time teacher Peter Fulton will lead the morning sessions, which will be focused on the Bible, world history and math. This is Fulton’s 50th year as a teacher. He previously retired from the Tumwater School District, and later taught at Northwest Christian High School in Lacey.
The online classes offer a number of options for students, who can pick different courses from a catalogue. The classes are through the public school district, but Stout said an in-class academic coach will help mix the concepts the students are learning with their biblical beliefs.
“I’m thinking that it’s going to be a really good way to develop critical thinking skills,” Stout said. “If the students see something in their classes that doesn’t line up with what we teach — we see the Bible as teaching — that will really open up an opportunity to say well how does that square with what we believe.”
Centralia Christian School is not an accredited high school, but since the online classes are taught through the public school system, students will receive credits to put toward their graduation. The credits will all be easily transferable, Stout said.
“All of these classes are taught by highly qualified teachers so it holds great promise,” Stout said.
The addition of ninth and 10th grade will fill in a gap the school doesn’t currently offer prior to kids taking part in the Running Start program, which allows qualified high school juniors and seniors to enroll tuition-free in college courses as part of their high school programs of study.
“This will give them an opportunity to still have a Christian-based environment to do their ninth-and 10th-grade year, and then if they want to go into Running Start, they won’t have those two years in the public high school,” Stout said. “This is another option for them.”
In the future, the school might expand into 11th and 12th grade, but right now the school is focused on successfully implementing the earlier high school levels.
Because half of the high school classes are online, tuition for students is less than normal at $3,370 a year. Typically, full-time student tuition is $5,050 a year.
Along with the addition of the high school classes, the school is also expanding into an all-day preschool program known as Preschool Plus. The program provides an extended afternoon program to help families who need all day placement for their kids.
“We’ve hesitated to do this in the past because to keep preschoolers that long you need to get a state child care license, but we decided to jump in and do it this year because we felt like the need was there,” Stout said.
The additions aim to increase the school’s enrollment, which has been decreasing, a trend many Christian schools in the nation are seeing, Stout said.
“We are a tuition-driven school and our enrollment has been decreasing so these are both ideas for increasing our enrollment,” Stout said.
The school has the capacity to serve 200 students, but right now they only have 120 enrolled. Stout said there are openings at every grade level.
Utilizing funds generated during their auction event, the school is also implementing new safety mechanisms. The auction raised $60,000, and $20,000 of that will be funneled into a computer assisted doorway that will buzz people into the school, and the addition of fencing around the grounds.
The rest of the money is used by the Centralia Christian School Foundation to fill in financial gaps.
“Because our enrollment is down, we are not meeting our expenses, so the foundation uses that money to help fill in that gap,” Stout said.