Archive for Thursday, July 3, 2008

Merged Christian high school considered

Future second school could be built in western Shawnee

July 3, 2008

If things go as planned, by the year 2012 high school students from Maranatha Academy, Whitefield Academy and Kansas City Christian, will be in one, larger building at the intersection of 135th Street and Quivira Road in Overland Park.

The high school would mark the beginning of the Christian school district that board members from the three schools have been discussing for almost two years.

Jimmy Dodd, spokesman for the board, said the formation of a district is still in the very early stages of development.

"We have to raise money," he said. "The owners of the site wants to know we can actually raise funds before they agree that is the best site. There is a possibility that the land could be actually gifted to us, but they don't want to gift us the land without some sense that it's the real deal."

Colonial Presbyterian Church currently owns the land the schools are considering, Dodd said, but before site discussions can be finalized the board needs to research if the funding dollars are available.

"This is not a fast process," he said. "It's often times over a year to really walk through and see if the funds are there."

If things went smoothly, the soonest a school could be built on that land would be 2010, Dodd estimated.

Although a first Christian high school is yet to be built, the group is already considering a second one. Potential locations for that school are northwestern Johnson County or southwestern Wyandotte County, with western Shawnee the most likely site, Dodd said.

Taking what he called a wild guess, Dodd said the school would cost no more than $50 million.

"This will be a nice school, but we will be very wise in the way we build," he said. "We will be very careful with our money."

Dodd hesitated when he was asked how large the school would be.

"It's almost hard to say the size because size can make people very nervous," he said. "You know you say a size and people are like, 'Oh my gosh.'"

The capacity would be no more than 900, about 100 students less than Mill Valley High School's current capacity.

But Dodd said a school of about 900 students could offer students more opportunities.

"Once you hit about 900 students, you can have most the trappings of really any school," he said. "You can have all the sports, you can have the marching band, the stage band, all of the choirs."

Plus it would bring three strong Christian schools together, Dodd said.

"If we bring all of our strengths, then what we can be together is much stronger than what we can be separate," he said. "We strongly believe that we can train kids to be leaders. What we offer is an outstanding way to teach kids to learn, to serve, to care for people, to care for this whole area."

The goal is to eventually have high schools across the Kansas City metropolitan area, but building the high schools wouldn't mean that Maranatha, Whitefield or KC Christian would no longer exist, Dodd said. They still would serve elementary and middle school students.

There are still lots of steps in the process, as parents of the three schools have not yet approved closing their high schools in favor of opening a new school in 2012.

But Dodd said when the board put out feelers for how the school communities would receive the idea about two years ago, it largely received support.

"We are cautiously optimistic," he said.

An agreement of faith has been agreed upon, which is a large part of the process in making sure all school's Christian values are cohesive, Dodd said.

Curriculum development would play to the strengths of the school. Whitefield, for example is strong in language arts, Dodd said.

In the meantime, the board meets as often as necessary, sometimes three or four times a month, and several e-mails are sent between the members, Dodd said.

More information on the development of the district would be available in late fall, he said.

"We'll have a real sense of the land by then," Dodd said. "We'll have a sense on if we can raise the funds."

While there are pros and cons to creating a district that will, in turn, create a high school larger in size, Dodd said the biggest advantage would be its ability to create leaders.

"I believe that we can change the landscape, what it will look like to live in this area for years and years to come because we will train kids who will be leaders and want to serve," he said. "They will be taught a very much Christian world and life view."

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