First Baptist Christian School will expand in August when it offers ninth-grade classes as it launches a high school on its downtown campus.
The school has about 215 students enrolled in grades pre-K3 through eight and is now enrolling students for its initial ninth-grade class.
“We’ll start with ninth grade in the 2015-16 school year this August and add a grade each year thereafter,” said Susan Emerson, the school’s principal.
The campus is in downtown Lafayette on a block along West Convent Street and adjacent to First Baptist Church, giving the school access to the church’s resources as needed.
It’s not the first time the First Baptist campus has housed a high school. The campus served as a temporary site for Ascension Episcopal School while that school built its Upper School campus in Youngsville.
Emerson said First Baptist will start its high school classes in the same area used by Ascension years ago. The goal is to remain downtown and make decisions about green space for athletic events as needed, she said.
Staying downtown presents some limitations for athletic purposes, but there are benefits as well, said Steve Horn, pastor of First Baptist Church.
“There are several exciting opportunities and reasons to maintain a downtown presence for the school,” he said. “Since it’s become more public (about the high school), we’ve received a lot of positive affirmation about staying in downtown.”
Emerson said high school tuition is about $4,800 for church members and $5,000 for non-members. The tuition does not include fees for enrollment, books and technology.
Horn said scholarships are available for the first 20 students who enroll in the high school. He said the goal is to enroll at least 10 students in the first year with the ninth grade enrollment capped at 25 students.
The decision to start the high school was made by the First Baptist Church congregation, which has about 3,000 members, following a challenge by Horn in September 2014.
Horn said he challenged the congregation to “Do Something” — a push inspired from a song by Christian music artist Matthew West of the same name.
“I’m so tired of talking about how we are God’s hands and feet, but it’s easier to say than to be … I want to be the one who stands up and says, ‘I’m gonna do something,’” West sings.
“I specifically challenged our church that we would come out of this initiative to do something that we had never done before. I didn’t know what that was going to be,” Horn said.
He encouraged the congregation to submit their ideas and received 350 responses. Through a town-hall style meeting process, the list was whittled down and expanding the school was among the top ideas, winning 95 percent of the congregation’s vote, Horn said.
As part of the process, the congregation studied and prayed about starting the high school, Emerson said.
“Then, when the church had this big affirmative vote, it showed a lot of unity in the church about this decision,” she said.
Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.