Friday, September 07, 2012

SMLCA turns 5

The private Christian school has grown to include 56 students and several new subjects and extra curricular activities.

Karen Dillon

It's a new school year, and for Smith Mountain Lake Christian Academy, it's also a milestone. The private Christian school is celebrating its fifth anniversary.

One recent morning, before the school day began, school administrator and math teacher Cris Perdue took a visitor on a tour of the school, which is located on the lower level of Halesford Baptist Church in Wirtz.

"Halesford [Baptist Church] has been an excellent partner to us," said Perdue. "We're using our space as wisely as we can."

There are 56 students enrolled at SMLCA from pre-kindergarten through 10th grade (the newest grade added this year). A wide hallway divides the lower (pre-K through 5th grade) and upper school's (grades 6 -- 10) classrooms, and each is decorated according to that grade or subject.

Perdue talked about the school's current and future growth. Next school year, an 11th grade will be added and a 12th grade the year after.

"Our classes are growing, really, from the bottom up," said Perdue.

Perdue highlighted some of the new offerings this year and others that are in the works - a fall soccer league for students in the lower school, basketball for the upper school and a cheerleading/dance team for all grade levels.

"We would like to offer a spring sport, as well," said Perdue, adding that T-ball and baseball are candidates.

Academically, SMLCA is growing, too. Last year, the upper school added Spanish I and Spanish II to its curriculum. This year, it was biology.

"We do a lot of hands-on stuff in here and really encourage our students to investigate," said Perdue.

That hands-on learning helped bring the school into the spotlight last year when it placed third in the FIRST LEGO League robotics tournament in Lynchburg.

The school also offers independent music education and emphasizes community service with regular visits to Runk and Pratt, a local assisted-living facility, said Perdue.

"We very much try to have a balanced education," she added.

As kindergarten teacher Kelly Martin was preparing for her day, she talked about what her nine students are learning - subjects ranging from Latin and beginning reading to math and social studies.

"I like that you can go at a pace that the children need," said Martin.

As the school continues to grow, other factors, such as the need for additional space, more teachers and an increased budget, eventually may come into play.

Currently, the majority of the school's $300,000--$350,000 annual budget comes from student tuition, with the biggest expense being teacher salaries, said Perdue. Whatever else is needed to make budget comes from various fundraisers the school sponsors.

Perdue, who joined the staff three years ago after teaching in public school, said she is proud of what SMLCA has accomplished and is excited about what the future holds.

"It's a true blessing to be here, and I'm enjoying every minute of it," she said.

"We're a family," added Martin. "I know all the kids in the whole school, and from the first time I came in, I really liked it and knew that this was the place for me."

For more information about Smith Mountain Lake Christian Academy, visit www.smlacademy.com or call 719-1192.