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Schools with religious role dot the county

"Christian education makes a difference in children's attitudes, their outlook on life, how they treat each other and the respect they have for their parents,'' a teacher says.

By LISA PEEPLES

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 29, 2000


INVERNESS -- With school just around the corner, many parents are weighing the pros and cons of different places. For those interested in a religious-based school, there are several local choices.

Some of the schools, which are still registering students, recently opened their doors; others have existed for years.

Whether because of recent public school tragedies, the classes offered or parents' religious convictions, it seems that more families than ever are exploring options in education.

Seven Rivers Christian School in Lecanto has been around for more than a decade.

The school offers K-3 through 12th grade, a mix of Christian and secular studies, intramural and interscholastic sports, a gymnasium, music classes, chorus, drama and a multichild discount to its 336 students.

All of the students wear uniforms. Classes run from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. for elementary grades and from 8:15 to 3:15 for middle school and high school.

The middle school and high school principal, Scott Jackson, recently spoke about the school's goal.

"Our desire is for every student who leaves here to have a growing relationship with Jesus Christ, and beyond that it is our desire to prepare the children to go into the cultures and be kingdom builders," he said.

Another private school in the Lecanto area is Pope John Paul II Catholic School, previously known as Central Catholic School of Citrus County.

The school, started in 1985, offers K-3 through eighth grade, an extended-day program, a supervised homework program, music classes, interscholastic sports and a multichild discount to its 250 children.

The students wear uniforms. Classes run from 8 a.m. to 2:50 p.m. for all grades.

The parochial school shares its mission statement with all who enter its doors. Development director Cindy Chase quoted from it: "Pope John Paul II Catholic School is an interparochial school community (that) empowers students to reach their highest spiritual, intellectual, social and physical potential in a Christ-centered, Catholic, educational environment."

Inverness Christian Academy at Fort Cooper Baptist Church in Inverness is opening its doors for the first time.

The school enrolls students from K-3 through eighth grade. It has 50 students and offers a gymnasium, intramural sports, a music program, a multichild discount, and before- and after-school care.

Classes run from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The students wear uniforms. The school uses the ABeka Curriculum, a Christian-based curriculum published by Pensacola Christian Academy and College.

"There is a need for quality Christian education and a school to serve the Inverness area. A lot of people here are very interested in the school, the response has been great and very positive," said school administrative assistant Doris Willis.

"Those working here have had a lot of previous experience with Christian schools ... and our No. 1 goal is to see young people saved, living for the Lord and developing Christian ethics and morals so they can function in today's society in a responsible way."

New Testament Christian School in Floral City has been open for nearly two decades. It offers K-4 through 12th grade and uses ABeka and the Bob Jones curriculum.

Classes run from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. The school offers interscholastic sports, a music program, band, yearly music competition and a multichild discount to its 106 students.

The school has two main objectives for parents and children, said administrator Dennis Peeples.

"Our reason for existence is to assist Christian parents in the community in their God-given responsibility in training up their child in the way he should go. Our goal for the students is for them to have the opportunity to not only have an excellent academic education but also to be in an environment where they can become what the Lord wants them to become," he said.

Two other private schools, on the opposite side of the county, are St. Paul's Lutheran School on the outskirts of Beverly Hills and West Coast Christian School in Crystal River.

St. Paul's opened its doors six years ago and offers prekindergarten classes through eighth grade. The school has 54 students and uses a variety of methods, including the Christ-Lite Curriculum, for its religion classes.

The students wear uniforms. Class times are 8:15 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. A sports program and multichild discount are available.

Judy Johnston, the first- and second-grade teacher, recently explained why St. Paul was started and its desire for students.

"We offer a Christian school here because we have a firm belief in our savior, Jesus Christ, and think that is the most important thing our children can learn about in this world. Christian education makes a difference in children's attitudes, their outlook on life, how they treat each other and the respect they have for their parents ...," she said.

West Coast Christian School, previously known as River Gardens Christian School, is leasing space from Crystal River United Methodist Church. The school was founded in 1982.

The school has about 50 students and offers classes from kindergarten through 12th grade. West Coast uses ABeka and the Accelerated Christian Education curriculum.

Classes run from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The school offers interscholastic sports, before- and after-school care, arranged with a Christian day care center, and a multichild discount.

"Our goal here is for each child to be a success as far as their education is concerned and to grow closer to our lord, Jesus Christ," said administrator Marlene Pringle.

For information

If a school you are interested in was not mentioned in this article, please call that school's office for information on the coming school year.

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