The Otsego Christian Academy is housed in the First Baptist Church of Otsego, 247 E. Allegan St.

Christian academy expands in Otsego

By: 
Kayla Deneau, Staff Writer

If everything goes according to plan, Otsego Christian Academy class of 2018 will be the school’s first high school graduating class since the class of 2006.

Principal Lydia Hutchens said the school stopped offering high school classes due to dwindling enrollment.

“Financially it wasn’t feasible to maintain a high school,” she said. “We now have the interest level of parents and students to add higher grades back on.”

The expansion will begin with the addition of ninth grade during the 2014-2015 school year.

The school decided to expand after the majority of eighth-graders expressed interest in returning in the fall.

“We had six eighth-graders and we will have four ninth-graders,” Hutchens said. “We fill a specific niche in the area for families who want their children to complete education in a Christian school.”

She said the present plan is to add an additional grade level each year, getting to 12th grade for the 2017-2018 school year.

“That is our current goal,” Hutchens said. “It really depends on how successful we are this coming year.”

In past years, first and second grades shared a room as did third and fourth grades. Fifth through eighth grades operated on a more regular middle school schedule, moving from classroom to classroom for different subjects.

For the coming year, a fifth and sixth grade classroom and teacher will be added, with seventh through ninth grades continuing on a rotating schedule.

Hutchens said while there are reasons it may be great to have separate classes for all grade levels, combined classes offer additional learning experiences.

“Let’s say I’m teaching first-graders English and the second-graders are working on something else,” she said. “Hearing it again is a refresher in their heads. Also, if a first-grader does not quite understand something, I can have a second-grader help them. Assisting with the material really cements it in their minds.”

Hutchens explained several subjects, including Bible, history, science and health are taught to both grades simultaneously with the grade level being taught alternating each year.

She said the teaching of those classes is not necessarily contingent on one another for each year.

“For science you may be covering light in first grade and magnets in second,” she said. “It works out.”

Math and English are taught to each grade level separately.

Hutchens said the combined grade levels add to the sense of family within the school.

“With the small school size we all eat lunch together. We have older students who sit with the preschoolers and help them with their milk,” she said. “It is very much like a family and the little kids really idolize the older ones.”

In addition to ninth grade, the school is adding all-day every day preschool and kindergarten.

Previously, the school has offered every-other-day preschool and kindergarten—the classes shared a teacher and classroom.

“We were often asked about both, so there is definitely a need,” Hutchens said. “Parents are looking for a place for their kids to go.”

She said the school has hired a new teacher to do the added work.

Preschool enrollment for next year is around eight students, but kindergarten enrollment remains low, Hutchens said.

“We have a lot of room left and we would love to fill the class up,” she said.

Last year, the school had 47 students. Current enrollment is at 39 students, and Hutchens said she expects the total to be around 50 students by the time classes begin.

Enrollment is presently underway. Tuition is $4,200 per year, with a lower cost if a preschooler is enrolled less than full-time.

The school offers a scholarship program to help offset the cost for families, and children and grandchildren of pastors receive their schooling at a discounted rate of 50 percent.

Of the 22 families enrolled last year, Hutchens said only five families paid full tuition.

She hopes to continue growing enrollment, saying the current building could hold up to 100 students.

“I’m excited about what we can offer,” she said. “We make Christianity and life in Christ real. It’s not something that a family just does on Sunday, God is part of every aspect we teach.”

For more information, call (269) 694-6738 or visit www.otsegochristianacademy.org.

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