- Special Sections
- Public Notices
A new Christian school serving the Lake area is in the works to begin holding classes next fall.
A "town hall" meeting on the school, Smith Mountain Lake Christian Academy, will be held Thursday, Nov. 29, 6:30 p.m., at Radford Baptist Church. This will be the second informational meeting held about the school in an effort for organizers to answer questions from area residents.
The first meeting, held earlier this month at Halesford Baptist Church, drew about 55 area residents.
Currently the school is being proposed to cover the middle school years, grades six through eight, though that could change as the needs are evaluated. "Depending on the feedback we get, we may adjust that," stated Deke Andrews, head of the school.
That could include, he said, adding a new grade each subsequent year.
The group starting the school has a seven-acre tract set aside at LakeWatch Plantation development, though next fall the school would have to find an alternative location to hold classes. Andrews said the cost of the land is $500,000 and fundraising efforts have already yielded some $150,000.
Andrews, who spent 19 years at North Cross School, said he would like to have 60 students in the initial school year, but added no minimum number has been set. The school is not affiliated with any one church and it has its own statement of faith.
Because of its location, Andrews said the school hopes to draw students from both Franklin and Bedford counties. "We do want to make ourselves available to that part of (Bedford) county," he said of the Lake area.
Smith Mountain Lake Christian Academy, Andrews said, would be for parents looking for an alternative learning situation for their children from the traditional public school setting. He said while many are comfortable with the elementary public education that is offered, some seek other options once their children are ready for middle school.
"The smaller setting creates a better sense of accountability," he said. That's one of three benefits he touts, the other two being accessibility and having a more comfortable situation for students.
Private education, he said, creates "a very safe, very comfortable environment to learn."
The school's Web site states that tuition-driven schools "demand and deserve the highest levels of accountability," adding that private schools also tend to foster a family atmosphere. Accessibility is gained through a smaller school population, allowing better communication. The Web sites adds that through a Biblically-based education, students "will learn to see the world through the filter of a biblically-based lens."
The Christian education, he said, provides advantages the students wouldn't receive in another setting.
While tuition rates are still to be determined, Andrews said it should range from $4,500 to $6,500 annually. He expects faculty-to-student rations to be about one teacher to 12 students.
"We're relying on a lot of prayer to put it all together," Andrews said of the school's plans.
Applications for enrollment are expected to begin being received by the end of February. He said the school will be interviewing faculty as well and will be able to hire appropriately once numbers are established. He said the independent school setting allows some advantages when it comes to hiring. "That can create some positive options out there," he said. "We're looking for effective faculty."
He said that may include retired faculty members who would like to participate in a private Christian school setting.
Plans for a Christian school in the area were hatched several years ago, but at the time weren't followed through, Andrews said. He added, however, that Micah Gaudio didn't let the vision die. Gaudio and Andrews crossed paths in September and the vision was refueled into Smith Mountain Lake Christian Academy. "The vision of SMLCA has been in the making for several years and now, after a season of prayer and laying a foundation, is ready for harvest," he notes in a letter on the school Web site.
Andrews and his wife have raised six children and he says he knows the burden parents face deciding on the best educational experience for the children. "For years, we would spend Labor Day Weekend (all schools used to open the day after Labor Day) in prayer, seeking God?s will as to where to send our children to school. Consequently, we have experienced it all; public, private, Christian, home schooling and even a tennis academy," he stated in his letter. "Our prayer is for SMLCA to be a community school and that means whether you have children, grandchildren or maybe just a concern for the education of future generations, we welcome your involvement."
Andrews, a native of Roanoke, received his B.S. in Industrial Relations from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, where he was a four-year football letterman. He worked in a variety of family businesses and was hired by North Cross School in 1988 to oversee the development and operation of the Carter Athletic Center, a 63,000 square foot facility. Over the past two decades he has taught grade levels K-8, served as middle school adviser for five years, coached more than 20 athletic seasons at the middle and junior varsity level and eight at the varsity level.
For more information on the school, visit www.smlacademy.com. The Web site includes a statement of faith as well as a feasibility questionnaire for prospective families.