A new Christian school that promotes its freedom to develop an academic experience not mandated by the state or federal government is opening its doors in Naperville in September.
Faith Christian Academy will take over the school at Wheatland-Salem Methodist Church at 95th Street and Book Road and offer classes for children from preschool age 3 through high school.
Faith Academy is affiliated with GRACE, or Gracefully Reclaiming A Conservative Education, a network of independently run schools founded by Pastor Randy Blan, who also is Christian school liaison with Awake Illinois.
Blan’s flagship school, Families of Faith Christian Academy in Channahon, was launched in 2005 as an option for parents who didn’t want their children’s learning governed by the Common Core State Standards adopted by public schools, said Al Crespo, director of communications for GRACE .
The Channahon school was one of several schools south by Gov. JB Pritzker and the state of Illinois in 2020 for their refusal to comply with health guidelines established for faculty and students in the state’s return-to-classroom protocols.
Despite the lawsuit, the private school was left alone and remained open with teachers and students never wearing masks, Crespo said.
The decision to expand in other communities was made after Families of Faith leadership started seeing an educational gap among new students who were transferring from public schools that relied heavily on e-learning, he said.
Because they had new second-graders who were unable to read or write and high schoolers testing at junior high levels, all students attending Faith Christian in Naperville will be given assessments to determine their appropriate grade level, Crespo said. Plans will be developed for those who need to get caught up, he said.
“What started this was a severe loss of learning,” Crespo said. “Public schools don’t have a plan to close the gaps.”
In addition, parents don’t have to worry about critical race theory or sex education being taught, he said.
Among the charter parents of the new Naperville school is Awake Illinois founder and president Shannon Adcock, whose second-grader will be attending in the fall.
Adcock said the school is part of an alternative education movement that doesn’t teach “woke education.”
“Parents will be given a seat at the table at Faith Christian, unlike public school the last two years,” she said.
Adcock ran unsuccessfully for the school board at Indian Prairie District 204 in 2021.
Besides Naperville, GRACE schools also are opening in Romeoville, Manhattan and Sterling.
With Faith Christian Academy moving into Wheatland-Salem, the former tenant of the school space is moving north.
Covenant Classical School is taking over the building near Ogden Avenue and Rickert Drive that three years ago housed a private elementary school operated by Chesterbrook Academy.
Tom Stoner, who heads the school, said Covenant was notified in the spring that Wheatland-Salem would be moving in a different direction and would not be renewing the school’s lease for a 10th year.
It previously rented space for three years at the Naperville Church of Christ on 75th Street.
Classical Christian school will sublease the 1571 Oswego Road building from Chesterbrook for the four years that remain on its lease. “Then there’s a question of what happens to this property,” he said.
Chesterbrook still operates a preschool and day care across the parking lot.
“It’s really ideal for us. I can move the same grades. The classrooms are bigger. It was designed as a school. We’re the only people in the building. It’s just really a great location. … It just is a real blessing to us,” Stoner said.
Covenant Classical will offer kindergarten through eighth grade classes, and Stoner said the school will continue to search for a location large enough to include high school.
The growth and popularity of classical schooling, described as the way education used to be in America up until 75 or 100 years ago, is the result of the pandemic, according to Stoner.
With public schools moving to e-learning, parents got a look at what their children were being taught, he said.
“I think parents are becoming more in touch with the nature of education. What are they learning? How are they learning? What’s going on? he said.
Classical school is kind of a retro movement, he said. “Let’s go back to the way things were when kids read classic literature and were taught writing skills. We teach grammar, spelling and cursive writing — all those things that used to be really highly prized,” he said.
Rather than putting devices in the hands of kids in the classroom, his teachers encourage students to speak and to understand the ideas that led to the creation of technology, he said.
“We want them to understand the ideas that enable scientists, mathematicians and engineers to develop the technology,” he said.