In the 1970’s and 1980’s there were many Christian Schools being started all across the United States and around the world. Many were started under the umbrella of local churches. Enrollments swelled, buildings were built, and Christian colleges were producing teachers for the Christian schools.
However, we are in a period now where many Christian schools are closing.
There are many reasons Christian schools have closed:
- Parents chose to homeschool
- Parents chose “free” education with Cyber schools and even public schools
- Parents chose schools that offered better sports teams or other extra-curriculars
- Parents and students did not want to submit to rules and standards that Christian schools needed to maintain and enforce
- Christian schools did not always produce the quality of education they promised
- Christian schools became not much different than many public schools as they pulled in unsaved children in order to pay the bills
- Churches and leaders became disillusioned with Christian education and were no longer committed to providing it for the next generation
Christian schools have down-sized in many different ways
Some Christian schools have not closed, but have found they need to down-size. Some have tightened their admissions and become more narrow in their philosophy, resulting in a smaller sized student body, but hopefully a better spiritual product in their graduates. Here are some ways schools have found to down-size but stay open:
- Combined two grades and kept one traditional classroom teacher to teach every subject to those two different grades
- Combined even more grades and tried to retain classroom teachers who could handle the challenge
- Moved to video courses, like those offered by Bob Jones Press and A Beka, where students watch lectures by classroom teachers and then work in their own books under the supervision of a teacher who is overseeing several grades
- I’ve even heard of some Christian schools who have moved their upper grades to use the public school system’s Cyber-school programs, and supplement with their own Bible class and a teacher to hold students accountable.
- Some have moved to an online Christian curriculum, like Monarch (from Alpha Omega), where students work independently through their courses over the internet
- Transitioned to a curriculum where students work independently in textbooks and workbooks, with a teacher to supervise several grades (like Alpha Omega, Freedom Landmark, Rod and Staff, etc)
- I heard recently of a church-school that became a homeschool cooperative. All their students became homeschool students but came in to the church once or twice a week for special classes, labs, and chapel.
Our school’s story
Almost 15 years ago our Christian school had lost many students due to other area churches starting their own Christian schools, and several families choosing to homeschool. We could no longer stay open using the traditional curriculum approach with classroom teachers. We studied the options at that time and opted to go with the Accelerated Christian Education PACES approach. Quite honestly, I was hesitant. I had heard bad things about ACE and could think of some situations where the ACE program would not work well. But compared to the alternative of just closing the school down, I felt it was worth exploring. I also believed and told others that while we would be losing some things we liked about traditional classroom teaching, we would be “trading” for some other benefits that we were not able to enjoy without making the switch.
For a Christian school, there are many advantages to ACE
- Can offer every grade needed, K-12, no matter how few students per grade
- Can operate with a minimal number of staff members
- Can use whatever facilities are available (classrooms, fellowship hall, etc).
- The cost per pupil is about $200/year for curriculum and parents can pay for the PACES their child has used each month, or pay an annual fee.
- The curriculum is thoroughly Christian.
- The curriculum has been used, revised, and tested for over 40 years in many schools around the nation (and world!), so you can trust it to meet your needs.
- The administration of the program is very flexible. You are not locked into a rigid time-schedule, but can insert chapel, choir, field trips, ministry opportunities, etc without hindering the students’ academic progress. This was actually a big selling point to me when we made the switch – I like the flexibility we have in the schedule!
If you want to explore the possibility of moving to ACE to keep your school open, I would suggest the following first steps:
- Watch the promotional DVD to better understand how the program works, and the mastery philosophy behind it
- Visit a few area schools that are using ACE and see how for yourself how it is working
- Contact ACE headquarters and talk to someone who can answer questions and give you more information
- Call a few ACE school principals and ask them all your questions
Once you are serious about making the move, follow these steps:
- Enroll and attend a Principal training week at ACE headquarters in Tennessee
- Line up your elementary and high school supervisors and get them trained as well
- You will need to enlist the help of a few monitors which often can be part-time. We have about 10 mothers who volunteer a few hours each week to help with recess and lunch supervision and assisting the Learning Center supervisors.
- Build the office units needed. We have a design that we like that mounts on the wall or sits on an 8 foot table but can easily be closed up and moved away when necessary.
- Then there’s ordering the curriculum, testing incoming students, and having orientation for both parents and students well in advance of the change as well as just before school starts. The ACE Training materials are chock-full of all the steps and materials needed to help you get started!
When we made the transition, our ACE representative for our area wisely advised us that the first year is the hardest, and of that year, the first quarter is the hardest, and of that quarter, the first week is the hardest. So, in other words, it just keeps getting easier and easier the longer you stay with it!
We have been able to have two full-time school staff, paid by the church, helped by over a dozen parents and volunteers. As a result, we do not charge tuition but instead collect a fee to pay for the PACES and encourage families to give what they are able to support the school ministry. We have consistently had about 35-40 enrolled every year now for the past 15 years. We would not have been able to offer our church members’ children a Christian education if it weren’t for the ACE program! That may not work for your school, but you may be able to find a creative way to keep your school open by using the PACES for the high school grades or the entire school.
So, if you are considering having to close your school. Don’t do it. Prayerfully consider the option of converting to ACE and continuing to provide a Christian education and haven from the world for your precious children!