October 31, 2012

‘We’re building excellence’

Christian Heritage to expand, headmaster retiring

By Christopher Smith

— Why is Christian Heritage crossing the road?

Apparently to get to the planned high school on the other side.

Christian Heritage School’s Board of Trustees on Tuesday night unveiled plans to build a new high school as they campaign to reach $25 million to fund a five-year plan to increase the school’s footprint. Once completed, the high school will be across from Christian Heritage’s current location at 1600 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

“For some years now we’ve needed to separate high school from middle school and elementary school, which are all housed under one roof,” said David Jolly, board of trustees chairman.

The land is valued at $3.75 million and was acquired earlier this year.

Christian Heritage has 130 high school students in a student body of 463, all who share the school’s 40-acre campus. The high school will house 300 students, said school officials, and will feature a gym, fine arts wing, theater and learning lab.

“There is the possibility of building in phases,” Jolly said. “It depends on the cost of capital projects and the progress of the campaign. If we have to do it in phases we will start with site preparation and parking, then move on to the remaining classrooms, and finish with athletic facilities.”

The school has raised $11.5 million so far — 46 percent of the campaign. That’s just short of the planned $14.75 million it will take to build the high school next year.

Christian Heritage is using local architect Kirkman Associates, who oversaw construction of the trade center, the Royal Oaks Retirement Community and Dalton Middle School.

“This is a local firm. They have over 40 years of experience with secondary school design and are good for the job,” Jolly said.

The reveal of the high school plan is seen as a fulfillment of 18 years for headmaster Renny Scott, who will be retiring in the summer.

“I came here in 1995 as part as the building program team, thinking it would take about 18 months to do the project,” Scott said. “It took a little longer than that. Now that it is finally done, it’s time to pass the baton on to the next generation.”

Scott believes his time at Christian Heritage “has been a blessing.”

“I have had a front row seat watching God work through an incredible team of people,” Scott said. “We all know the saying ‘Garbage in, garbage out,’ but here I can see truth in, truth out. You can see the power of Christian education at work.”

Scott will still contribute to the school, acting as a board member for the Christian Heritage Endowment Foundation, which was created from the board of trustees to offer a “legal wall” while helping the school’s campaign.

In addition to the new school, the $25 million five-year campaign is intended to improve existing facilities and parking lots, create endowments and scholarships for students, and improve teacher salaries.

“We have struggled like most private schools do when they start up,” Jolly said. “One of the areas we have struggled with (since 1986 when the school opened) is paying teachers. We cannot expect our teacher salaries to continue to attract and retain the best Christian teachers.”

Earmarked for the campaign funds is $2 million to improve salaries, which are $10,000 less per teacher per year compared to public schools in the area, said school officials.

“We are building excellence,” Jolly said. “Our desire is to reach the goal we’ve set out at the end of the campaign and make many friends for CHS. We realize we’re in tough economic times, but our needs are present and we are confident we will find pledges. We will only advance on this project as we uncover the pledges to fund different phases.”