By WILLIAM PAINE
For The Patriot
This year, parents in the New River Valley will have another educational option to choose when deciding the best way to educate their children. The Valley Harvest Christian School, located not uncoincidentally at Valley Harvest Ministries (VHM) church in Dublin, is currently accepting new enrollees.
Steve Willis has been the Senior Pastor at VHM for more than a quarter century, but before he came to Dublin, he worked as an Associate Pastor at a church in Ohio, where he was appointed to administer their newly formed Christian school.
“We started a school in Ohio from scratch and it grew rapidly,” Willis related. “We had 100 students after just a few years. I still stay in touch with a lot of those students. I think that was part of God’s preparation on me for this.”
Derek Burton, who became a full time Associate Pastor at VHM this year, will take on the role of the Valley Harvest Christian School Administrator … the same role that Pastor Steve Willis took on four decades earlier in Ohio.
The Valley Harvest Christian School already has 30 students currently in the process of enrolling. As it stands now, the school will educate children from kindergarten to 10th grade, but as enrollees go from 10th to 11th grade, so too will the school’s curriculum. The plan is to eventually offer lessons for grades K-12 at Valley Harvest Christian School.
It takes a lot of work to open a new school. Why did Pastor Steve Willis and Associate Pastor Derek Burton feel compelled to make the Valley Harvest Christian School a reality?
“We wanted to help Christian parents by offering a Christian-based education for their children to pass the faith from generation to generation,” Willis stated. “Currently in the public schools there seems to be such a departure from Christian values. We wanted to have a school that offered a quality education, but also an environment where they are exposed to and mentored by Christian people with Christian character traits.”
“It’s a partnership between the school and the families to help their children develop their Christian Faith,” said Burton.
“The first schools were in churches,” added Willis. “So, it’s not anything new. A full education requires some teaching from the Bible and our school will emphasize Bible and prayer and Christian conduct.”
The new school will use the Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) program of learning, which utilizes the Packet of Accelerated Christian Education (P.A.C.E.) system.
“The children are tested in math, science and English to check what level they are in and placed according to those tests,” Willis explained. “A year’s worth of work is going to have 12 P.A.C.E.’s, which are workbooks broken up into sections designed for children to read and work through. After they read a section, they’ll have questions and then fill in the blanks.”
Instead of teachers, the A.C.E. system uses “Supervisors” who are there to help students with any questions they may have about the teaching materials.
In addition, “Monitors” will be on hand to help students with any questions regarding procedures. After finishing a section of their P.A.C.E. workbook, Monitors will direct students to a “Scoring Station” where they will check their own progress by using an answer key. Supervisors are instructed to regularly engage with each student to make sure they understand the lesson.
“Our Supervisors have to be able to help them understand the academic material,” said Willis. “If a student stumbles over a particular subject or a math problem, then our supervisors are qualified to be able to help them work through that.”
“Eventually they do what is called a self-test,” Burton explained. “At the self-test time, the Supervisor comes over and quizzes them on the whole P.A.C.E. If they do well on the self-test, they go over to a special table and test on that P.A.C.E.”
If the student scores 80 percent or better, they will progress to the next level. If they make less than 80 percent, they must repeat that P.A.C.E. until they can make 80 percent or better.
“Children are not socially promoted,” Willis declared. “They are promoted when they grasp the material.”
According to School Administrator Burton, of the two Supervisors already hired, one has a degree in Education and the other is currently finishing her undergraduate college degree.
Burton is aiming for a 15-to-1 ratio between students and Supervisors. Since he expects to have at least 45 students eventually signing up, he will likely have to hire one more Supervisor by start of the school year.
Burton is also in negotiations with a licensed Physical Education teacher, but if it doesn’t work out, Burton will handle those duties himself, at least for the 1st year.
According to Burton, the Valley Harvest Christian School will also have field trips and will be working towards offering electives in art and music. Students will also attend a weekly chapel service and Burton fully expects the students to participate, especially in Praise and Worship.
Classes will be held from 8:30 to 3:30 Monday through Thursday. One Friday a month, students will be scheduled for a homeschool day. The campus will be closed during school hours.
“Everyone these days has a concern about safety and we have a lot of measures in place to ensure that the kids are safe when they’re here with us,” said Willis, who also mentioned that Burton has an extensive law enforcement background. Burton has worked for several local law enforcement agencies and even worked as a School Resource Officer at one time.
Students can potentially sign up at any time during the school year, but Burton is encouraging parents to sign their children up by August 1st, so that he can have the proper amount of staff ready for the new school year.
The Valley Harvest Christian School will operate solely using funds provided by student tuition, which costs $2,700 for the entire school year. Students will also require between $200 and $300 in learning materials depending on the grade level.
Siblings will receive a 10 percent discount to make it more affordable for people with large families.
Even with their good intentions, can parents rest assured that their children will receive a quality education at Valley Harvest Christian School?
“Myself and my wife put a high value on education,” said Burton. “Both of us have Doctorates. My wife is a university professor and my children have been in this A.C.E. program for two years now. With that being said, I have watched them grow in their academic knowledge significantly and just as importantly or more importantly, I have seen them grow spiritually. I and my wife would never risk the education of our children. If we didn’t believe this program truly provides a high-quality Christian education, we wouldn’t be doing this.”
Willis and Burton clearly plan on being part of Pulaski County’s Education system in the long term.
“After the completion of this inaugural year of this Christian School, we will be pursuing full accreditation through the National Association of Private Schools,” said Burton.
For more information on the Valley Harvest Christian School go to: VHMDUBLIN.ORG.