A new private school is on its way to Warren County at the site of an education landmark.
What remains of the old Centertown Elementary School is in the process of being remodeled to become Centertown Community School. The inaugural school year is set to begin in August.
Pastor Jerry Smith started a church at that site about a month ago and he says establishing a Christian school is the next step. Billy and Faye Cunningham will be handling day-to-day school operations.
It will be a school for grades 2-9. First-year enrollment will be capped at 24 students.
“We have children graduating from our public schools who don’t know how to read,” said Smith, who has been a pastor for 53 years and also has done some teaching. “Children who are slow and in need of more attention are not pushed along with our program. We allow them to work at their own pace which caters to high-achieving students too.”
Smith says Centertown Community School will be using curriculum from Accelerated Christian Ministries. He says this ACE curriculum is used in 3,500 schools in America, and in 140 countries.
“We will perform a diagnostic test on every student in every subject,” said Cunningham. “This will allow us to start them out with the appropriate material. Just because they are a fourth-grader doesn’t mean they will be started on fourth-grade math. They could be higher or lower.”
The school calendar will mirror that of the Warren County School System. Cunningham said that is best because some students may have a sibling in the public school system and the same calendar would be most convenient for families. Hours will be from 8 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. with 180 days of instruction.
Cunningham said each day will begin with a short devotional followed by morning instruction. The afternoon will be filled with extracurricular activities such as art, language, music and PE.
The only remaining structures from the old Centertown School are the cafeteria and gymnasium. Instruction will take place in what was formerly the cafeteria. The gym remains operational with basketball goals and inflatables.
Cunningham says students are given 30-page workbooks and will complete about 12 workbooks a year depending on their pace. Students have to take a test and show mastery of one workbook before advancing to the next.
Under the ACE program, students set goals each day and work toward achieving that goal. If they reach their goal, there is no homework. If not, the remaining work is required to be done at home.
Cunningham, who spent 37 years in the military, says there will be firm discipline and clear rules. Students can earn rewards, but also get demerits.
Smith says he has been encouraged by the reception the new school has received. He says the most common question he has received thus far is about the school’s accreditation.
“Everyone asks if we’re accredited,” said Smith. “We will be, but we can’t get accredited until after our first year. There are things you have to do to gain accreditation that you can’t do unless you’re in school. We have to have students here first.”
Student applications will be accepted May 1 to July 1. There is a one-time $100 application fee and monthly tuition is $200. Monthly tuition decreases by $25 a month for each additional child from the same family.
Smith said students who have gone through the ACE curriculum have traditionally produced high ACT scores. He said colleges are looking at ACT scores more than anything else when determining who to accept.
Centertown Community School has signed a one-year lease on the property with the option to buy. Billy Medley remains the property owner. Smith says they are anxious to buy the property, but want to make sure everything goes well the first year before accepting such a large financial responsibility.
In an interesting sidenote, both Cunningham and Smith have ties to the old Centertown School. Billy and his wife, Faye, attended Centertown for 12 years back when it went all the way to high school. Billy was a star for the basketball team and scored many points in the gym which still stands today.
Smith met his wife, Diana, while she was a cheerleader for Centertown.
For more information on Centertown Community School, call Smith at (615) 522-7525 or Cunningham at 815-9889.
There’s also a 15- to 20-minute video on the ACE curriculum Smith or Cunningham would be happy to show to any area church congregation on Wednesday or Sunday night.