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Rev. Rick Ragan addresses the crowd during the informational meeting on the new Meherrin Regional Christian School, which begins classes on August 22.

Enthusiasm was apparent at a recent meeting to learn more about the new accredited, non-profit Christian School for pre-k through 12th grade students, which will start August 22 at First Christian Church.

Many in the large crowd were parents, but several prospective students also attended. Some parents and students expressed relief, even called it a dream come true, that the new school, which is nationally accredited, will not have to give Standards of Learning (SOLs) and will have time for prayer, devotion, the Pledge of Allegiance and will be remarkably similar to the way schools operated when the parents and grandparents received their education decades ago when God was an important part of every student’s day at school.

Of course, there will be discipline. The school will have a demerit system, and if needed, students will spend detention after school, parent conferences, and if necessary, the parent would have to pay a $250 re-entry fee if the child is expelled and wants to return to school, as well as meet with the school board. Students cannot reapply for a year.

“We have to maintain discipline and structure,” said Brad Barbour, School Board President and Founder, as well as Pastor of Victory Fellowship Church, which is donating a school bus to transport students for the school.

“You can get so much more done when students are listening to the teacher and the teacher doesn’t have to spend a great deal of time keeping peace in the classroom. The teacher will have time to teach instead of disciplining a student.”

Students will also be required to learn cursive and be graded on penmanship. The school will have a rigorous curriculum and challenge students, he said, noting that students will have to write essays, memorize poems, be required to spell words and so much more.

Several parents talked about the stress put on their children to pass the SOLs as well as on the teachers and administrators to make sure the students pass those tests.

Student achievement is tested of course, just not through SOLs, which are not required in Christian Schools, Barbour pointed out, noting that student achievement is not just based on whether you pass a certain test.

Because of not having SOLS students can use their creative abilities and don’t suffer test anxiety, he said, pointing out that many parents have expressed concern that their children are so stressed out by the SOLs.

People said having their children attend the nondenominational Christian School with small class sizes (10-1 ratio) will be a breath of fresh air. Pre-k and kindergarten will be a little larger but will also have an aide to help the teacher.

It was noted that Greensville County Public Schools will also have to provide any special services it offers to students in its system (example, psychologist) to students at the new school, when requested.

When Barbour pointed out that parents can still expect their students to hate going to school just like they would at any school, the large crowd chuckled. He promised the students will have real books to study from, even though parents will have to pay for them. Next year,

The Christian School, which is not affiliated with First Christian Church, plans to recycle the books, but all books will be new this year. The school originally planned to serve students in pre-k through eighth grade but due to the many calls to add high school grades, the plan changed, he said.

He noted that the school did not have time to add dual enrollment to its curriculum for the new school year, which is why Barbour was hesitant to add high school grades this year.

But when he had such an overwhelming request for high school students to attend, high school classes were added. Dual enrollment students graduate from high school with an Associate’s Degree, which cuts off two years of college schooling.

About 50 people recently attended the Parent Information and Enrollment meeting to learn more about Meherrin Regional Christian Academy, its offerings, and goals. The name was chosen because the vision is to have a regional school with students from neighboring localities attending.

After the program, a lot of discussion, and many questions, several parents enthusiastically enrolled their children. Many people applauded the effort to open a Christian school at the meeting, although staff of Meherrin Regional Christian Academy stressed that opening the school was not meant as “anti Greensville” but is instead an alternative for people who want their child to receive a Christian education based on the Bible.

Pastor Rick Ragan of Forest Hill Baptist Church will be a volunteer at the school. He praised Christian education, noting that his own kids received a Christian education based on Beka Book.

Barbour has been involved in some aspect of education for the past 10 years. He has been a teacher in Greensville County Public Schools and has also taught Beka Book, which will be used as the curriculum at the school as well as director of a Christian School. Barbour and his wife, Amber, have two children in the school system who they have been sending to Christian School out of town. They wanted to find a better option for their own children as well as their twins when they are ready to attend pre-school.

Barbour said he heard stories from parents who were looking for an alternative school option for their children so he prayed about it and after a lot of investigation, talking to others and First Christian donating their site for the school, he knew it was what God wanted him to do.

God seemed to open all the doors for the Meherrin Regional Christian Academy to advance from a thought, a dream, to reality in only months, but months of a lot of work, he said.

Between the remarks from Barbour and the answers to the questions you could tell a lot of work and forethought had been put into the project. Barbour stressed that the Christian School is no “fly by night operation.”

Even the aspect of growth has been planned for. First Christian Church told Barbour to do what he wanted with the property, which has a building in back as well as seven acres that can be used to expand the church, which will be used for the school. There is already talk of adding six more classrooms. The church was praised for its generosity and “can do attitude.”

There are several classrooms that have been set up and more will be if needed in the future. This year only 48 spots are available and they are going fast, said Barbour.

“There has been an overwhelming response since I announced on Facebook that we planned to open a Christian School and a story ran in the Independent Messenger.”

Barbour explained that his family has a vested interest in the school because his daughters, Callie and Olivia will attend. “I also want something local for our kids,” he said, noting that the school has three perspective teachers, all of which are certified teachers and very qualified. Additional staff will be added as needed.

He stressed that after the next school year high school students can take dual enrollment classes, which is important.

School will start on Aug. 22 at 8:15 a.m. in the auditorium and end at 2:55 p.m., although students can be dropped off at 7 a.m. and stay until 5:30 p.m. though the extended school program for an extra fee.

The last day of school will be May 25. Bus transportation will be provided by Laura Scott.

Foreign languages will be offered through a video based format.

P.E. is required in high school and students will be able to take Driver’s Education.

Parents with multiple children will be offered a discount. The second child would only pay 80 percent of the tuition, and three or more students, would be half-price (after the first full price). The cost ranges from $3,875 annually to $5,000. The school has payment plans, including a 12-month plan.

Call (434) 336-3195 for more information.