West Alabama Christian welcomes back students

As teachers in the county’s three public school systems ready to head back to work next week, instructors at West Alabama Christian School welcomed students back Monday.

In its sixth year of existence, the Demopolis-based private institution now boasts 119 students between its daycare programs and its K4-8 academic classes.

“Every year we grow,” school administrator Roni Long said. “We’re at 63 students in the school K4 and up. When we started, we had 15. We’ve grown every year.”

WAC, which operates under the umbrella of Fairhaven Baptist Church, saw its teachers pick the early start date out of two calendar options built to closely mirror the public school work schedules.

“The semester is 18 weeks. We go 180 days because that is a requirement by the State of Alabama. We had two calendars when we ended the year. I believe in giving our teachers a lot of voice in what we’re doing. So they were given a calendar and told to vote which they wanted,” Long explained. “They could vote to start later in August like our sister schools do or they could get more days. They get the whole week of Thanksgiving off. We get good Friday off. We have professional development in October. That breaks it up for the kids so that they’re not so antsy by the time we get to the end of the school year. They voted that they wanted to start early this year.”

Among the benefits of the early start to the academic year is the opportunity it provides to parents who have students in both the West Alabama Christian and public systems such as Demopolis City Schools.

“I think that helps to prepare (parents) to have kids that are in both places. It allows them to come spend that first day here with their student and walk through all the good things with them. And then they can go do it with the other student too. I think it is a good fit for what we do.” Long said.

West Alabama Christian has seen its share of challenges over its brief existence, but Long feels that none has been greater than the obstacle of transitioning the institution’s faculty into a faith-based educational paradigm.

“I think the biggest challenge was for our teachers. All of our teachers are state certified, so every one of us came from secular schools. I know only how to administrate in secular school and not a Christian school, so they know only how to teach (in a secular school). The biggest growth is seeing the teachers learn how to teach from a Biblical worldview. Therefore they are able to put that into our students and they’re able to filter,” Long said. “Logically, you could filter, Biblically, the absolute truth. How does this line up with what God has told us? That is the biggest growth I’ve seen.”

The efforts to apply the Christian framework have not fallen short in the school’s early years as WAC has seen not only numerical growth in its enrollment, but academic excellence from its student body.

“We’re way ahead nationally. Our SAT scores are in the seventh, eighth and ninth stanine. Nationally, we’re beating them hands down. But it is because it is small, we have one on one, and you can catch everything that comes through because there are not so many piled up in your classroom that you’re just trying to do the best you can,” Long said.