CCS will start high school with ninth grade this fall

WILLMAR -- Willmar's Community Christian School will offer ninth-grade classes this fall, the beginning of a staged expansion that will see its first high school graduates in 2010.

WILLMAR -- Willmar's Community Christian School will offer ninth-grade classes this fall, the beginning of a staged expansion that will see its first high school graduates in 2010.

The school had originally planned to expand in the fall of 2007.

"All of a sudden, parents came to the board and said we would really like to have our kinds in a Christian high school," said school administrator Del Brouwer. They appealed to the board to begin the new classes a year earlier.

The school now offers classes from pre-school to eighth grade. The school's current capital campaign will pay for some improvements and expansion at the school and should make enough space for the high school classes.

The school will add one class a year until it has a full four-year high school program.


Elementary principal Steve Masseth was named high school principal this month, a first step toward building a staff for the new high school.

With just one grade to be added, the school will likely add one full-time teacher next year and use the skills of its middle-school teachers. More teachers will be added as the school adds grades.

The first year will be considered a "pilot project," with a full academic curriculum but less emphasis on extracurricular activities and electives, Masseth said.

No one knows yet how many ninth-grade students will register in the fall.

"We don't know what to expect," Masseth said. "We know there is a core group of families. ... We're willing to educate however many come." This year, the school has 14 students in eighth grade.

In the past, students have chosen public schools or the Central Minnesota Christian School in Prinsburg after leaving Community Christian.

In recent years, not that many have gone on to CMCS, Brouwer said. That's another reason the school considered starting its own high school.

While both schools offer a Christian education, "there will be distinct differences (in) the education they receive here," Masseth said. "We don't believe we are fighting against them."


Community Christian will use the Principle Approach in its high school. The approach focuses on the four Rs of research, reason, relate and record to "help students understand their place in God's story."

Students will learn deductive reasoning and how to relate what they learn to the world at large. The school will place a heavy emphasis on writing, and students will complete a class with a written record of what they learned.

Classes will use an 1828 Webster's Dictionary, a tool to see how language and definitions of words have changed over time.

"It teaches the kids how to learn and become independent learners," Masseth said. "It places a strong emphasis on learning and knowing the true Christian history of the United States."

Students will research authentic historical documents to learn about a period in history, rather than read about it in a textbook, Brouwer said.

A similar approach will be used in studying other core subjects, he said. "We'll be studying modern discoveries right up to the present day."

Masseth said he was pleased with the technology available to students at the school through computer labs and up-to-date science lab equipment.

The high school will offer a well-rounded curriculum, "but the essence of putting God's word at the center will be there," he added.


Young people graduating from Principle Approach programs score well on ACT and SAT tests, and many earn college scholarships, Brouwer said.

Brouwer said Christian educators are increasingly concerned that fewer adults in the United States are viewing the world from a Biblical perspective.

"This type of high school is proven to change that," Masseth said. "That's what we're trying to achieve."

They'll ask young people in the school to do their own research and come up with their own ideas, they said. "We believe they will come to the conclusion that God's ways are the right ways," Masseth added.

"One of the things we don't want our high school to be is a place where they are sheltered from society," Masseth said. "Our desire is not to protect them from worldly philosophies. We want them to understand them and when they face them to be able to stand strong."

Anyone in the community who is interested in learning more about the Principle Approach is invited to attend a workshop at Community Christian School. The "Pathway to Biblical Liberty" conference will last from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Feb. 18. There is no admission charge.

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