New families seek Christian education

Sioux Center Christian School fourth-grade student Jacob Penner practices his keyboarding skills while classmate Brenna Van Roekel writes out her spelling words Monday. With 72 students, fourth grade is the Christian school’s large grade this year.

SIOUX CENTER—Sioux Center Christian School saw near record enrollment growth with 24 new students for the 2019-20 academic year.

Its record of 26 student enrolled was in 1991-92.

The school’s 2019-20 total enrollment transitional kindergarten through eighth grade is 524 students compared to 500 last year.

“We continue to rally around our mission and proclaim what God is doing at Sioux Center Christian School,” said head of school Josh Bowar, noting the school has been working hard to remove enrollment barriers. “Our heart is that we want to make Christian education as accessible as possible for families who want their children to receive a high quality, Christian education focused on strong academics, character and faith nurturing.”

Bowar part of the large increase is due to several families moving into the community who chose Christian education for their children.

“When parents come to visit, I am able to show them how accessible Christian education can be in a family’s budget, and people are sometimes surprised by that,” Bowar said. “We just have several ways to make things work for families.”

The school’s smallest grade size is TK with 20 students; its largest is fourth grade with 72 students.

The Christian school has gained more than 140 students throughout the past decade.

Christian school sees student increase

Camryn Wynia and Adelyn Groenewold play violin during Sioux Center Christian School’s fourth grade orchestra practice on Monday. With 72 students, fourth grade is the Christian school’s large grade this year.

Bowar said the school has been able to add faculty and staff to meet the needs of increasing enrollment as well as added specialized positions such as resource teachers, a behavior specialist, a school counselor, interventionist, and paraprofessionals.

“We have also added grade-level teachers to keep class sizes low because we believe personalized attention is important,” Bowar said. “We have also implemented the teaching for transformation framework in order to have a more cohesive way of providing Christian education.”

The Christian school is exploring the potential for a building expansion to meet the needs of the growing student body.

“We continue to do everything we can to meet the needs of our current students and families, and we want to partner well with parents,” Bowar said. “We also have started partnering with several groups in the community, as we want to provide many ways for children to access Christian education, all while holding true to our reformed perspective and the mission of the school.”

Bowar invites anyone interested in Christian education to contact the school for a tour to meet with him.

“We treasure kids as God’s unique creations,” he said. “We seek to train them in his way and his word through everything they learn, and it is our hope that they will be transformed through the power of the Holy Spirit. We want all who are interested to participate in the great things happening as we invite, nurture, and empower kids to live God’s story.”

Unity Christian

Unity Christian High School has 290 students this year, up seven from last year’s count of 284 students and 30 greater that the school’s enrollment of 261 students three years ago.

This is the fifth year in a row enrollment has gone up. Classes this year are 68 freshman, 85 sophomores, 74 juniors and 63 seniors.

“With our smallest class size being the seniors at 63 and next year’s freshmen class already in the 70s, we could push that 300 student mark next year even,” said Unity Christian principal Wayne Dykstra.

Unity Christian has had up to 389 students 20 years ago.

“Many of those students are now parents of our incoming students so our increased enrollment is coming, in part, because of alumni choosing to send their children to Unity,” Dykstra said. “It’s incredibly encouraging to see that next generation say ‘I went here and I want my kids to experience what I experienced.’ That’s what we want. That’s what every school wants — school pride that goes from one generation to the next.”

Dykstra said other factors supporting the school’s growing enrollment is its larger international student program, which has 12 students involved compared to five just a handful of years ago.

Dykstra noted that some students who were home-schooled also choose to attend Unity Christian for their high school education. He said student transfers from other schools also is “abnormally high” in recent years.

“And we have families move into the area due to local job opportunities,” Dykstra said. “That’s becoming an annual trend.”

Western Christian

Western Christian High School has 271 students enrolled for the 2019-20 academic year, about 20 more than last year.

The largest class this year is the 12th grade with 78 students. The smallest class is the 11th grade with 46 students.

“We anticipate classes coming in to Western Christian in the next couple of years to be in that 70-75 range, which means we will be knocking on the door of 300 students attending Western Christian in a couple of years,” said Western Christian development and promotions director.

He said that a facility upgrade project three years ago means the school should be able to accommodate that number of students.

Head administrator Brian Verwolf expects projected growth in Sioux Center, Rock Valley and Hull will result in stable numbers for the school, if not increase them.

“We certainly expect that, and if it doesn’t happen, then we need to ask ourselves some questions about why it isn’t happening,” Verwolf said. “If there is growth in the community, why aren’t they choosing our school?”

He said that Western Christian has had excellent student retention rates, which is another important aspect of enrollment that is sometimes forgotten. Speaking from experience, he said it is not something to take for granted.