MARYSVILLE — Back in 1977, Grace Academy held its first semester of classes in the basement of Grace Bible Church. School leaders really had no choice, as the school itself still was under construction.
Current Principal Timothy Lugg didn’t know off the top of his head how many students enrolled at the school on 67th Avenue NE during their inaugural year.
“At first, we were pretty small,” he said.
Becoming fully accredited in 2001 and now celebrating their 30th anniversary, the school still is relatively small, but that’s partly by design.
“You loose the personality … It would violate our mission if we got too big,” Lugg said.
Grace had some 330 students in grades kindergarten through 12 this past school year, with 14 seniors making up the graduating class. There were 24 graduates last year. Lugg reported the student-to-teacher ratio in the average Grace class is about 12-1 and he likes to talk about how the students can get to know Grace’s teachers and staff and vice-versa.
“Some of the elementary classes might be a little bigger,” Lugg said, “But just the feel in the classrooms is a distinct lack of chaos.”
“There’s a tremendous sense of family here,” said Grace Admissions Director Gail Miller. She also bragged about the academic performance of Grace students.
“I like it a lot,” graduating senior Grace Eberle, 18, said of the school she attended for two years. Eberle said she went to Christian schools throughout her academic career, but added Grace was her favorite.
“The teachers really care,” she said. “They will go beyond one-on-one for you.”
For her part, Miller talked a lot about the academic accomplishments of Grace students, noting high scores on standardized tests. She put her own children through Grace and said they both reported feeling well prepared for moving on to college.
“The transition did not overwhelm them,” she said.
Like the church with which it is affiliated, Grace Academy is a non-denominational Christian institution. Lugg talked about the school revolving around several principles including integrity, ministry, purity and accountability. Christian beliefs also are a predictable part of the mix, with students attending daily Bible classes. Still, Lugg said non-Christians are welcome at the school, pointing to Jewish and Arab students as proof.
When students apply to the school, Lugg meets with parents and, in the case of older children, the students themselves. Most prospective students also take assessment tests. Nevertheless, he insists the school is not aimed at the wealthy, nor it is an elitist or exclusive institution as some in the general public may believe.
“We are just a place for good education,” Lugg said, adding Grace’s demographics are reflective of the surrounding community, with minorities making up about 5 percent of the student population. Miller added not all the school’s students are members of Grace Church, but actually attend some 70 different spiritual institutions.
“What we want to accomplish is continuous improvement,” Lugg said. “When they first opened the doors, that was good enough. It’s not anymore. It hasn’t been for a while.”
For the future, the church and the school are planning a major fundraising drive aimed at building a new school gymnasium. The price tag has been set at $4 million. Grace students do regularly participate in sports and because of the school’s size, many kids who might not make the team at a larger school are able to participate on Grace’s squads. Despite their small size, the school still recently produced a class1B state champion in both the high and long jump.
“That was pretty exciting,” Lugg said regarding the accomplishments of Grace’s Brian Young.