Newberry Christian school ready to open (in Gainesville)

Fifth-grader Logan Taylor helps second/third-grade teacher Carla Trujillo on Monday with classroom preparations for the beginning of the school year at the new Newberry Christian Community School at Westwood Hills Church of God, 1520 NW 34th St. in Gainesville.

Erica Brough/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Wednesday, August 7, 2013 at 3:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, August 7, 2013 at 3:33 p.m.

A private Christian school that popped up nearly overnight is ready for its inaugural school year.

Newberry Christian Community School, which was little more than an idea just a few months ago, has been certified by the state and will open for classes on Aug. 19.

About 90 students have enrolled so far, but founder Ron Davis said he expects a few more to trickle in over the next two weeks.

The school is housed on the second floor of the Westwood Hills Church of God, 1520 NW 34th St., but is not affiliated with the church.

Davis said he originally hoped to establish the school in Newberry, hence its name. But when the space at Westwood Hills became available, he decided to lease for a year or two, until a new school can be built farther west.

On Monday, just nine weeks after filing its establishment and certification papers with the state, Newberry Christian Community School was ready to go with three school buses, paid for by students' parents and a private donor; a computer lab that came with the building; lockers donated by a football program in Tennessee; a library of about 4,000 books; and 11 of 12 teaching positions filled.

"We've been blessed," Principal James Schrader said on Monday. "We went from an idea sitting out in a cornfield … to, as of today, legit and (nearly) 100 kids enrolled."

Davis said the school is an outgrowth of Forest Grove Christian Academy, which he founded in 2006 with his wife, Carol, in Alachua.

Before moving to Gainesville, Davis was a teacher, and then he spent 20 years as principal of Crestview High School in Okaloosa County. Carol Davis had taught music, physical education and other subject areas at almost every grade level.

The couple retired in 1990 with 61 years of combined teaching experience.

They traveled for a few years after retiring, but by 2006, Ron Davis said, "We felt that there was a need for God's word to be spread."

The Davises ran Forest Grove for four years, then turned it over to James Schrader, who became the principal three years ago.

But the Forest Grove facility was too small to keep growing the school, which ended the school year with about 115 students, Schrader said.

So Ron Davis decided to open a new school, and Schrader followed him. Forest Grove remains open this year.

"I came here from Forest Grove to further the kingdom," Schrader said. "My heart and vision is to continue to grow to 400 or 500 kids."

Schrader said he wants to assure parents that the instruction will be just as good as a public school's, "but it's Christian-based; it's interactive," he said.

Instruction will run from kindergarten through 12th grade, with some grade levels combined. The average class size will be 10 to 12 and will not exceed 15 students, Schrader said.

One of the single-grade-level classes — fourth grade — will be taught by Carol Davis, who has been teaching since 1959.

The faith-based curriculum will include materials from Christian educational companies Rod and Staff, A Beka and Apologia.

Starting this year, students will take the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, a standardized test widely used by private schools. Students in the upper grades will take statewide end-of-course exams and can take supplementary classes online through Alachua eSchool.

Schrader said the school likely will offer 4-H this year, and girls' and boys' basketball and soccer teams are already in place. More sports will be added in years to come.

Tuition is $4,850 a year for each grade level.

Like Schrader, Vice Principal Debbie Cason followed the Davises from Forest Grove, where she taught, to Newberry Christian Community School.

"I'm excited," she said. "God has really good things in store."

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