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Central Minnesota Christian School in Prinsburg is celebrating its 100th anniversary of providing faith-based education in the community. A number of festivities are being held this weekend to commemorate the anniversary, along with the city's annual Independence Day celebration. (Tribune photo by TJ Jerke)

Private school in Prinsburg, Minn., touts 100 years of faithfulness

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extra Willmar, 56201
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

It's been 100 years since a two-room schoolhouse opened its doors in Prinsburg.

With two teachers and 65 students in 1911, the school -- formerly known as Prinsburg Christian School -- slowly grew into a K-12 school with 25 staff members, 300 students and boasting the name Central Minnesota Christian School.

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To commemorate the centennial of Christ-centered education, festivities are planned over the Fourth of July weekend.

"It's a time to celebrate," CMCS Superintendant Pete Van Der Puy said. "It's also a time to reflect on the foresight of the founding fathers 100 years ago to imagine this place could exist out on the prairie."

The celebration began Friday with a golf tournament followed by an alumni art show and fireworks display.

Today, events kick off at 8 a.m. with a 2.5 mile Freedom Fun Walk/Run, followed by various events including a co-ed volleyball tournament and 6 p.m. parade.

Elementary Principal Larry Van Otterloo has helped bring out the school history since the celebration planning began. With a Facebook page, he provides centennial moments highlighting key moments and influential people that have helped shape the school over the years.

Van Otterloo said wealthy landowner Derk Wubbels was visiting his son in 1910, who lived across the street from then the Prinsburg Christian Reformed Church, now First Christian Reformed Church, when he teamed up with the Rev. Lambert Ypma who was pushing for a Christian-based school. Wubbels donated the land for the school and promised $100 for five years to help support the "one leg of a three-legged stool," Van Der Puy said.

"They wanted to continue the training they received on Sunday into the rest of the week," he said. "They wanted the church, the home and the school to form the three-legged stool. If one of those legs is weak, we want all of them to work together to make sure the child is supported."

Over the years, the increased enrollment prompted a need for larger classroom space.

With 107 students, a new school was erected in 1929 equipped with three classrooms, and a fourth was later added in 1945, Van Otterloo said.

Two years later, in 1947, a quonset-style gym was built; the quonset building and now resides on a farm east of Bunde.

The elementary school, built in 1951, gave an "L" shape to the school and welcomed an addition with more class space in 1968. A gym was later added in 1993 to give the school its current look.

With multiple churches in the area, the school began to see an influx of interest from area families. So while the elementary school was being built, the Prinsburg Christian School changed its name to Central Minnesota Christian School after inviting members of area reformed churches to join.

As the elementary school was erected, the junior high school caught fire in 1955 and was completely burned down. The fire prompted a quick build for the high school that stands today.

Two years after the winter fire, 17 seniors graduated as part of the first graduating class after the school extended its education to K-12.

Today, with the hopes of having 1,000 supporters attend the anniversary celebration, the school will also begin work on a capital campaign for an $8.5 million renovation project.

Van Der Puy said the project has a two-phase plan with 60 percent of the Phase I funds raised.

Working with Marcus Construction, Phase I will connect the elementary school with the high school by creating a lobby area with administrative offices. Phase II, a $2.5 million undertaking, will hope to add 50 feet onto the current gym and incorporate new locker rooms and a community fitness area.

Van Der Puy said the renovations have been talked about for more than three years and the idea couldn't have come at a better time during the celebrations.

"I feel like it's our turn to have that same vision looking ahead to see what it's going to take to remain a viable part of this area," Van Der Puy said.

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