HOPEDALE — Eight years after Christian Life Academy opened its doors to kindergarten through eighth grade students, the faith-based school in Hopedale plans to offer high school classes this fall.

Principal and administrator Joshua Horning has watched the school evolve from 27 students to nearly 100.

“Since the beginning we had this vision of expanding our programs to the limits of the school building or where God wanted us to go,” said Horning.

A meeting with parents pushed the thoughts of high school classes to fruition.

The school serves families from many rural communities. Horning said that for most parents, the idea of enrolling students in a religious high school means traveling more than 30 miles to Bloomington or Peoria. 

“We are really blessed by what’s happening in K-8 classes. We want that to continue for our children as they grow older,” he said.

Enrollment is currently open for freshmen and sophomore students. The school anticipates three to five students to enroll by August.

“That doesn’t seem like a whole lot but it’s a big deal. Next year those numbers could double,” said Amanda Stribling, CLA high school coordinator and music instructor.

Stribling said this year will act as a pilot year and the program will expand as needed.

“When you think of high school, you think of one teacher assigned to each course and then students transferring to the next. Our classes will look more like a homeschool/high school co-op,” said Stribling.

Final tweaks are still being applied to the high school curriculum, said Stribling. For now it’s expected that high school classes will be taught online, delivered via video streaming by a teacher trained in that course. A CLA faculty member will supervise the students by tutoring and answering questions.

At this point, Stribling said, the school will only have to hire one teacher.

“On the financial side, it’s cost-effective and affordable,” she said.

Horning said space will become an issue if enrollment climbs. The school rents space in the former Hopedale Elementary School from Hopedale Township, which owns the building.

He said there has been discussion by the township about expanding the building.

“We are excited to work with the township and their plans of expansion, hoping it would then provide space we could lease for additional classes,” said Horning.

Tuition and fundraising events pay for the school’s operation. A golf outing in June raised $10,000 and the Life Days event in October raises nearly $40,000 each year.

The annual budget for the school is $400,000 and Horning said a quarter of those funds come from other private donors.

“There are so many state and national regulations public schools have to follow that, I think, hold them back. We are a registered school in the state of Illinois, yet we have some freedom to do education in ways that really benefit students while keeping some extras in the curriculum,” said Horning.

“Even though school is out for summer, it’s fun to be in the office and dream about what’s going to happen in the fall and see students walk through those doors again.”

Follow Julia Evelsizer on Twitter: @pg_evelsizer

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