For nearly 30 years, members of Morning Star Church have gathered late in the summer to clean up the school their church founded near Durham to prepare it for the coming school year.
Everyone in the congregation takes responsibility for keeping Cottonwood Grove Christian School up and running, school board member Ken Giesbrecht said.
“Our congregation, the school is just part of the church,” he said. “It’s definitely a church function.”
The church’s involvement in the school isn’t limited to funding and maintaining the school, he said. Members of the congregation lead the students in singing and devotions, and every week someone brings a hot lunch for the students.
Giesbrecht said the school’s mission is to provide an adequate education in a Christian environment.
“We feel like, as a school, we can provide education to our children,” he said. “It means very much to me. To me it means my children can grow up in a Christian environment where they wouldn’t be exposed to things detrimental to our way of life.”
Ransom Wiebe, one of the pastors of the church, agreed that protecting the students from harmful outside influences is one of the benefits of the school.
“Our children aren’t exposed to TV, so I think their temperament is affected in a way that’s an advantage, not being exposed to all the violence on TV,” he said.
Wiebe said the school doesn’t place as much emphasis on sports and the arts as public schools. Singing is one emphasis the school has, though. The children sing every morning at the beginning of school, he said.
Fourth-grader Dayna Wiebe said singing is one of her favorite things about school.
“I sing at home sometimes out of songbooks,” she added.
The school will have 25 students in grades one through eight this year, Giesbrecht said. With four teachers, there will be one teacher per six students, on average.
The school has three classrooms, a special education room, a kitchen, and a library in the corner of a larger room.
First-graders Joel Unruh and Landon Wiebe will be attending school for the first time this year. They said they don’t know what to expect, because Joel is the oldest in his family, and Landon’s older brother hasn’t told him much about school. Joel does have a pretty good idea what he will like the most, though.
“I think recess,” he said.
The school opened in 1984 or 1985. It has been expanded since then, and the congregation has plans to expand it again in the next year or two. They want to add to the lunchroom and build a gymnasium, Giesbrecht said.
“We’re not sorry we started our school,” Wiebe said.