Smith Mountain Lake Christian Academy will start the New Year in a new home when students report to class in the former Sunset Cay commercial building on Jan. 9.
The building is the most recent purchase by Eastlake Community Church, which now owns 200 acres of the former development. In 2014, the church purchased 162 acres of the Sunset Cay property for $569,000 at auction after the previous owner, SML Partners, filed for bankruptcy in 2009.
Eastlake began work last year on a new, $8.4 million building that will include a church, a gymnasium, a bookstore and a coffee shop. The new location is just down Hendricks Store Road from the former development and Eastlake’s current church building.
Part of Eastlake’s vision included expanding its SML Christian Academy, according to Troy Keaton, Eastlake’s pastor. While a new school was needed, plans were to wait until the new church was completed. However, those plans changed when the current owners of the Sunset Cay commercial building contacted the church to see if they were interested in buying the property, Keaton said.
“God continues to blow our minds in how he works things out,” he added.
After purchasing the building in May, work began soon after to convert it into a school. Keaton said the purchase price was $1 million, with the church investing an additional $1 million for renovations.
SML Christian Academy has continued to grow in recent years from 35 students in 2015 to 210 this year. The new building will provide additional space for students, as well as room to continue growing.
The new school features 16 classrooms, six offices, a science lab, an assembly hall and a cafeteria. Outside, there is a basketball court and a playground.
It’s also an opportunity for students to study be together under one roof. For years, classes for kindergarten through sixth grade were housed at Halesford Baptist Church, while seventh through 12th grade classes were held in a building located next to Eastlake Community Church.
Having students in two locations for the past few years has been a challenge, said Lincoln Bryan, SML Christian Academy administrator.
The new school will not only allow everything to be under one roof, but also will provide an added layer of security for students that includes cameras and other security features.
With the new facility, the school can accommodate up to 277 students, Bryan said. Should more space be needed in the future, the property has plenty of room to expand.
Meanwhile, work continues on Eastlake’s new church, which Keaton said is scheduled to be complete in March with a grand opening service set for April 5.
After that, there are plans to construct recreation sports fields on the church campus, Keaton said. While no schedule is set for construction to begin, he said plans are to build fields for baseball, softball and soccer.