A new “classical Christian” school opened recently in Elgin with an enrollment of 31 students in grades K-12.
Located at the Sonoita Hills Community Church on Elgin Road, Crossroads Christian Academy (CCA) started its first term on Sept. 5. CCA is a 501c3 non-profit institution governed by a board of directors. The school pays a modest monthly leasing fee to the Sonoita Hills Church, with plans for a new campus if the number of students greatly increases.
Mark McEuen, a pastor at Village Meadows Baptist Church in Sierra Vista, is CCA’s Interim Head of School.
The genesis of the school was simple, according to McEuen. “One of our community members believed that God was directing him to assist in starting a ‘Christian classical’ school,” he said. “This was well received because families were interested in a school that reinforces their family values and Christian faith.”
A Classical Christian education, McEuen said, “goes back to the ancient Greeks and combines two things. First is the study of the beautiful, good and true in the environment. Second, like the pieces of a web, all disciplines of math, history, literature and science touch one another and fit together. History is the linchpin that holds it all together.”
CCA has applied for membership to the Association of Christian and Classical Schools and expects to be accepted. Although the organization is Protestant, CCA accepts children of all faiths. It is a Christian school, and a prospective student does need a pastoral recommendation.
The majority of CCA’s students previously attended public schools, although a few were formerly home schooled. According to Mary Faley, Elgin School Principal and Superintendent, five or six students left the Elgin School to attend CCA.
Patagonia Schools Superintendent Kenny Hayes said that no students withdrew from Patagonia Schools to attend CCA.
CCA is in session four days a week from 8:00 am to 3:00 pm. Kindergarten meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The school day begins with a flag raising and the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by a one-half hour Bible study.
The dress code includes blue jeans (not ripped) and a collared shirt, preferably solid colored. Modesty is the guide, and the students enforce their own code. “We do not want to be the clothing police,” McEuen said.
There are four groupings of students in the school. “Each section is similar to a one room school where communication and interaction among all the students is encouraged,” said McEuen. The ‘school of grammar’ is similar to elementary school and encompasses approximately grades one through four. The ‘school of logic’ is similar to middle school and the ‘school of rhetoric’ is similar to high school grades nine through 12.
Currently there are three kindergarten students, taught by Debra Fleckenstein, who has a degree in accounting and homeschooled her daughter. Hannah Barron teaches the grammar school students. Sarah Mungia-Abriola, who has a master’s degree in social work, teaches the students in the logic school. The students in the rhetoric school are taught by Dr. James Small, who taught at the university level and Jasmine Bird, who had a homeschooled education.
Practical education is also part of the curriculum. In October, McEuen took a few older students to Springerville AZ, on the edge of the National Forest near the Navajo Reservation. A church there provided them with a place to stay and meals. The students cut down dead trees, used a log splitter, stacked the wood and loaded it onto trucks for future deliveries to the Navajo people. In the evenings there was Bible study and McEuen taught some history of the Navajo Nation.
Tuition at CCA is $9,000 for grades 1-12 and $4,500 for kindergarten. The Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) is a state funded scholarship that can be used at CCA. ESA awards $7,000 for grades 1-12 and $4,500 for kindergarten. These dollars come directly out of the state education budget that funds public schools.
There are concerns that there may be a $300 million shortfall in that budget due to the higher than projected number of students receiving ESA funds. According to the Education Data Initiative, Arizona ranks 49th out of 50 states in per pupil spending. The Governor’s office is calling for more accountability for private schools who are receiving these funds.
Retired Patagonia and Coconino County School Superintendent Jac Heiss opposes the ESA program, he said, “primarily because it is financially irresponsible, and secondly because there is no accountability, no way to gauge the progress of these students against state norms.”
Other scholarship funds for CCA are available from two sources. The Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization (ACSTO) awards scholarships up to $9,000 based on financial need, donor recommendations, and a student narrative. A scholarship application must be filed each year.
ACSTO is funded by a state tax credit, up to $1,459 for a couple filing jointly, that allows taxpayers to donate to scholarships for students attending private schools in Arizona. (This is not the same credit as the $400 tax credit that enables taxpayers filing jointly to donate directly to the public school of their choice. This far lesser amount is limited by law to only supporting extracurricular activities.)
The Board of CCA also awards gap scholarships, funded by private donations, to cover funds needed over and above scholarship awards. The school has received $11,000 in private donations which the board has designated to be used for gap scholarships.