It’s been a long time coming, but Ad Fontes Academy can finally be described as a school united. After having its student body physically separated in two, different locations, it’s finally together on the campus of Centreville Presbyterian Church.
But it wouldn’t have happened without a great deal of hard work, dedication and a serious fundraising campaign. And the end result is a new, modular building for the school’s lower grades, now just a stone’s throw away from the upper-level students.
The whole thing called for a celebration and, on Oct. 16, Ad Fontes staff, students, parents, teachers, board members and all other stakeholders in the school’s future gathered to celebrate. They did so with tours of the building, speeches and a ribbon-cutting in front of the entire student population.
“This is a dream that started many years ago,” said Ad Fontes President Dean Luckenbaugh. “We give thanks for our partnership with Centreville Presbyterian; we planned to be here one year, and it’s been 10 years.”
Noting the school’s One Body campaign that raised more than $1 million, he said even the smallest donations were welcome and helped make a difference. “Many young people gave 50 cents, a dollar or birthday money,” said Luckenbaugh. “One student even donated the $7 he made selling pancakes door-to-door. And we believe those faithful gifts brought the rest of the resources we needed to be here today.”
A private, nonprofit Christian school, Ad Fontes teaches students in grades JK (junior kindergarten, for 4-5-year-olds) through six in what it calls its lower school, and grades 7-12 in its upper school. And although Centreville Presbyterian has hosted Ad Fontes for a decade, there wasn’t enough space for the younger children.
So for the past 10 years, grades K through four were taught at St. John’s Episcopal Church. But as enrollment grew, said lower school Principal Janet Cooper, “We didn’t have room for fifth or sixth grades there, the past two years. So we moved them to the upper school at Centreville Presbyterian.”
Now, though, in time for Ad Fontes’s 20th-anniversary year, the lower-school children are ensconced in their new facility directly behind their older classmates inside Centreville Presbyterian Church. Total school enrollment is 214 students, 124 of them in the lower grades. But having the new building will enable Ad Fontes to someday house as many as 275 students.
Students began using it Sept. 1, when the school year began. It contains eight classrooms that can each hold 20 students, bathrooms, a large multipurpose room, offices, a reception area, a conference room, a small library and a Discovery Learning Center — where students with formally diagnosed learning difficulties receive educational therapy from an expert in this field.
“We love it,” said Cooper. “It’s a blessing to be here in our own building, and we have plenty of space in the classrooms for more activities.”
“And on occasion, we can have lunches, recesses, picnics or celebrations together for the whole school,” added Advancement Director Laura Harders. “Before, we had to bring everyone together in cars.”
Cooper’s pleased to have a library in the building and is also happy that all the lower-school children are now on one level. At St. John’s, they were taught on two, different stories of the building. And, said Cooper, “I have an office now. Before, it was at a lunch table.”
There are eight teachers and two aides at the lower school, and the average class size is 17 students. And now that the students finally have a home that’s really theirs, said Cooper, “The children have a greater sense of responsibility for their own building and want to take care of it.”
She said Ad Fontes students receive a “classical Christian education. We focus on grammar, writing, reading, phonics and Latin. Students are given a strong understanding of what God has done throughout history, chronologically, since creation. And they learn it in more depth as they advance in grades.”
For example, said Cooper, first-graders learn about the Greek myths and Greek civilization. In fourth grade, they read a children’s version of “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey.” Then in eighth grade, they read the original texts of these books. Students also memorize a historic timeline from 4,000 BC to 1991 that relates to what they’re studying — and recite it in song, complete with hand and foot motions.
“They also learn logic and rhetoric in the upper level,” said Cooper. “And seniors write a thesis and present it orally from memory. Our students come out with a strong, Christian foundation and learn how to think, analyze and ask questions.”
Parent Scott Shortmeyer has three daughters who attend kindergarten, first and third grades at the school, and he said his family’s delighted to be part of the Ad Fontes family. “We love it; it’s more than an education — it’s a great, close-knit community.”
He likes the fact that the school is “Biblically based, with Christ at the center of all of it. My girls love it here because learning is fun. And the new facility is great because it’s our own and is a new benchmark in the history of the school.”
At the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Board of Directors Chairman Jim Hadley said a prayer of dedication. “It’s a miracle that we’re here today,” he said. “Lord, You stirred all of our hearts [to contribute]. We are thankful and grateful for this miracle You’ve performed. And we dedicate this building to Your glory [and to] what will be accomplished [here] — developing people who are leaders and who want to serve You.”