If all goes according to plan, Owensboro will add a new high school in the Fall of 2020. A steering committee made up of local citizens is in the process of forming Grace Christian Academy to provide a biblically integrated education that equips students both spiritually and academically from a Christian worldview.
The school plans to start small with ninth and possibly tenth grade their first year. The group has not settled on a location yet, but will likely have to renovate an existing facility rather than building new right away.
Grace Christian Academy is not affiliated with any one church or denomination, said Mike Dechman, a member of the committee, but the school will be “distinctly protestant and evangelical.” The committee includes members of various churches in Daviess and McLean counties.
The school is not an extension of any other Christian schools in the area, Dechman said, although they have talked with many families from Heritage Christian School (which runs through eighth grade) who are interested in Grace.
Dechman, who works at Southern Star, initiated the planning as he and his wife Lauren began discussing high school options for their children (currently in sixth and seventh grade at Heritage). Their goal was not to keep their kids in a bubble, but to educate them in an environment where God is welcome in the classroom and where topics can be discussed through the lens of Scripture.
After a discussion with Tim Hoak, the administrator of Heritage, about what a Christian high school might look like, Dechman began sharing his vision with others. The steering committee met for the first time in May 2018.
Since that first meeting, the group has conducted site visits of schools in similar communities and has brought in several Christian education experts to guide their process, including Dr. Alan Pue of The Barnabas Group, who conducted a strategic planning seminar and later returned to lead a feasibility study. The study “showed us that there are a lot of families desirous of the school vision we shared,” Dechman said.
“We’ve had tremendous interest from prospective students and parents as well as local business leaders who are interested in partnering with us,” said Shanna McGinnis, a local pediatrician who is part of the committee. “It is thrilling for me to tell people about our school and see how excited they are about it.”
Natalie Tanner, an Owensboro mom on the steering committee, said committee members have been thrilled with the response from GCAOwensboro.org, a website built to collect email addresses from interested parents.
Tuition has not been set, although cost is one of the most common questions people ask, McGinnis said, adding that the group will balance affordability with sustainability when determining tuition. They also plan to offer a tuition assistance program through the support of individual and corporate donors so that families who would not otherwise be able to afford it can have access to Christian education.
The school will try to offer as many sports and co-curricular activities as possible based on faculty and parent volunteers who can coach or lead. Athletics will likely focus initially on individual sports such as cross country, golf and archery, with a goal of adding team sports as enrollment increases.
Dechman said the school plans to pursue accreditation through two organizations: the Association of Christian Schools International, which includes 20,000 members around the world, and the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, which holds members to high standards of financial integrity and Christian ethics.
Tanner said the committee’s main goal right now is to drive anyone interested in Grace Christian Academy to GCAOwensboro.org, where they can sign up to receive periodic updates about the school and fill out a short survey to share their top priorities with the committee.
These priorities will help shape the school’s focus, according to Tanner. Some will be more interested in sports and others in the arts, but more than 95 percent of respondents so far have said a Christian worldview is in their top five priorities.
While Grace will equip students for their next step after high school, McGinnis said the school will also help them be ready for more.
“We want them to be innovative thinkers, problem solvers, fiscally responsible, and most importantly, followers of Christ,” she said. “We believe our graduates will be equipped to serve Christ and their communities in a variety of vocations.”