Mission Valley Christian Academy adds new building

May 25—Construction workers began excavation for the "Upper School" of Mission Valley Christian Academy right after Memorial Day in 2022. It's now mostly finished, with a few small touches needed, according to Andrew Russell, head of the school.

The public is invited to check out the addition campus during a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 1 p.m. Friday, May 26.

With five new classrooms, a small prayer room also used for counseling, an office for Principal Michael Bond, a reception area, royal blue lockers in the hallway, and a lunch room/teacher's lounge, the building is already in use. Russell said they're waiting for 16 new computers to be installed.

Now a sunny yellow, the exterior of the building will be painted as soon as school is out. It's slated to be home for grades 7 to 12. The building was primarily funded by the Gianforte Family Foundation.

MVCA has 148 students pre-kindergarten through grade 12, and the school never exceeds a 16:1 ratio of students per teacher, Russell said. Each week at MVCA begins with chapel, and each day every grade has a Bible class.

It's an accredited school, too. Russell says MVCA has just finished the accreditation process with the American Christian School Association.To counter the scuttlebutt that only rich kids attend MVCA, he noted that MVCA is the least expensive private Christian school in Montana, with 58 percent of students utilizing some form of financial aid.

"Donors want to help kids," he added.

Another issue people have with private schools is special education since private schools are not required to allow special education students to enroll.

"The hugest blessing in the last five years has been a state certified special education teacher at MVCA," Russell said. Unfortunately, she's leaving after this school year so MVCA is looking for another special education teacher as well as a computer science teacher.

What's on Russell's wish list? More music and art programs because "everybody loves

music, and everybody loves art," Russell said.

He sees music and art programs as a place students of all abilities can come together, be friends, and enjoy the classes.

The next phase of expanding MVCA's campus will be construction of the community center, which will have a band room for music classes, a gym, a cafeteria, and a catering kitchen. Plans call for 1,500 square feet, but 1,900 is more likely due to a second-floor mezzanine. The Gianforte Foundation has given a $600,000 matching grant for the project.

With a gym comes more room for physical education classes and more competitive sports. Swoop the Eagle is MVCA's mascot, and the team wears the school colors of royal blue and silver.

Sports had been a sticking point before 2021.The school found that when students reached middle school or high school age many of the kids were leaving MVCA for sports opportunities at public schools. In 2021, the Montana Legislature passed a law that effectively removed the attendance requirements for a child who is not in public school to participate in a school district's sports or other extracurricular programs. This law has allowed students to remain at MVCA and also be involved in sports.