Education through a Biblical world view
A local private school has taught the four R’s — reading, writing, (a)rithmetic, and religion for 39 years. Bible Baptist Church started Wiscasset Christian Academy in 1979 to provide families with an alternative form of education. In 1979, church leaders wanted to establish a kindergarten through grade 12 school which challenged students academically and spiritually.
And 1979 seemed like perfect timing for Bible Baptist Church to begin a Christian school. The church was already in the process of moving from Summer Street to 143 Beechnut Hill Road. Manley Lee, the church’s pastor at the time, proposed adding a Christian school to the new chapel. The deacon board agreed, and Wiscasset Christian Academy was born.
Wiscasset residents Crystal and Mickey Jones are members of Bible Baptist Church, and sent their two sons, Brett and Chad, to the fledgling school’s first class.
The Joneses didn’t know what a Christian education entailed, but they liked how an alternative school provided them more consistency in raising children in a Christian environment.
“For us, it wasn’t a vote against public education, but rather, a vote for Christian schools,” said Crystal Jones. “The main factor is the consistency. What the children learn in school is the same as what they learn at home, and, I think that is even truer today.”
The school hasn’t changed much since it began four decades ago. It remains a kindergarten through grade 12 school. Once students accumulate 24 credits, they earn a diploma certified by the Maine Department of Education. Enrollment has remained low over the years. There are now 43 students, but enrollment has been as high as 63, according to Principal John West, who is also the church’s assistant pastor. Tuition is approximately $2,000 per year. The church maintains school facilities and pays West’s salary. Students are required to wear a school polo shirt, khaki pants or skirts.
There haven’t been many changes in the school since it began, but about 15 years ago, WCA made a significant change in the curriculum. WCA adopted the A Beka curriculum, a standardized method based on Biblical educational philosophy. A Beka was developed in 1954 by Dr. Arlin and Beka Horton. The couple began their own school in Pensacola, Florida and began developing their own educational materials due to a scarcity of religious-based teaching and philosophy materials.
Wiscasset resident and Bible Baptist Church member Melissa Jones said the use of A Beka is a major reason her two daughters attend the school. Jones is a Wiscasset High School and University of Maine at Farmington graduate. She teaches sixth grade humanities at a public school, Bath Middle School. “At first, I had concerns about the curriculum because the school didn’t use a traditional one. As an educator, I really struggled with that,” she said. “However, a couple years before my daughters started school, WCA began using A Beka which is a rigorous curriculum with high expectations which impresses me.”
WCA students spend approximately the same amount of time in class as public school students. Students begin the year the week before Labor Day and end the first week of June. Students attend classes Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. except on Wednesdays, when dismissal is at 2 p.m., so students can attend evening Bible study.
The school has eight full-time teachers and two part-time. The kindergarten has a separate classroom, but grades 1-2, 3-4, 5-6, and 7-8 are combined. The high school requires English, math, social studies, physical education and science credits. It also offers various electives including typing, computer, speech and music. WCA’s graduation requirements are “more rigorous” than Maine’s public school requirements, according to West.
The small size and Christian philosophy are the school’s main draw. Michael Farrell of Randolph is the basketball coach and Bible Baptist Church member. He has sent two children to the school. He likes its family-like atmosphere. “It really reminds me of the old one-room schoolhouse,” he said. “The older kids really serve as mentors, and you can see that positive relationship everywhere.”
There is one other required course at WCA that isn’t taught in public schools: The Bible. Each morning, school begins with prayer and the first class is religion. Eighth grade student Lindsey Jones said practicing her faith openly is the best part of attending the school.
“You learn about God freely, and there is no bullying. I feel really safe here,” she said.
The school has also been a salvation for students who struggled at a public school. Senior James Lacavera spent the past two years at WCA. His plans include attending college and becoming a minister. He attended Morse High School in Bath for his freshman and sophomore years.
“(WCA is) just a better fit for me. God is leading me to the ministry, and receiving a Christian education before college is really important to me,” Lacavera said.
For him, the main difference in public and Christian school is a divine one.
“It’s Christ. You begin with prayer, and we talk throughout the day with Christ, and we all have a personal relationship with him,” he said.
For the students, school life is about learning academic and Biblical lessons, spending time with peers who also share a personal relationship with God, and being free of peer pressure. Hunter Farrell is a sophomore. He has attended WCA for the past four years.
“You’re able to talk freely about God with no restrictions. You can talk about the Bible with friends and you can also share fellowship with your teacher which is something you couldn’t do in a public school,” Farrell said.
The school’s main extracurricular programs include athletics, fine arts, a Christmas program, and music. Each spring, students also partake in a school tradition of learning how to make their own maple syrup.
The school’s daily operation is handled by West who graduated from WCA and Pensacola Christian College. He worked at Verizon Wireless before assuming the post six years ago as assistant pastor and school principal. West never attended public school and sends his children to WCA for an important reason. “This is where my children are going to get the most individualized attention, and best education. When I say education, I’m encompassing that in a Biblical education, as well,” he said.
The school calendar also provides a better opportunity for families to coordinate school and church events. Bible Baptist Church has a Wednesday evening and two Sunday services. The Jones brothers were standout athletes in the 1980s and probably could have garnered more attention playing for Wiscasset High School.
“They really excelled in sports and I’m sure they would’ve done well in public school sports programs, but I never regretted sending them to Christian school for a second,” said Crystal Jones.
WCA offers two sports: boys’ basketball and girls’ volleyball. The school would offer more, but students haven’t shown an interest in fall or spring sports. WCA is a member of Maine’s Athletes for Christian Education League. WCA won the volleyball championship last month for the first time since 1983. The school doesn’t offer girls’ basketball due to a lack of female student interest.
“Volleyball has such a long tradition here. The younger students see the older girls bumping the ball, and they start emulating them, at an early age. So I think it would be difficult for another winter sport to thrive,” West said.
Mickey and Crystal Jones’ youngest son, Brett Jones, graduated from WCA. He later attended Pensacola Christian College and is employed by Wright-Pierce as a senior process designer. He is married to Melissa Jones. The couple likes sending their two daughters, Lindsey and Kelsey, to Christian school.
“First, and foremost, having a Godly perspective at the center of their education is very important to us,” said Brett Jones.
For Melissa Jones, as an educator, she knows public schools can present challenges not found in private or a Christian school. She has has taught for 20 years and said student behavior in public schools has changed significantly for the worse in recent years.
“There are some great kids in public schools, but there is also a trend of poor work ethic (and) a lack of respect and compassion for others that seems to be in the majority,” she said. “I don’t want my daughters worrying about being bullied, or putting up with kids being disrespectful to the teachers and students.”
West said parents and students come to WCA for two reasons. One is the school’s world view in relationship to the Bible. The other is avoiding the opposite end of the world view and what the Bible teaches against.