NEWBERG — Two longtime Christian school operations here are becoming one.
The board of directors of C.S. Lewis Academy last month announced the academy’s merger with Open Bible Christian School, fully effective with the next school year this fall.
The two pre/K-12 Christian schools have operated in Yamhill County for many years — C.S. Lewis since 1985 and Open Bible since 1983. Now, with the partnership, the combined school — to operate under the C.S. Lewis Academy name — will seek to better serve families who seek a strong academic and Christian-based educational choice.
Lisa Gohman, chairman of the C.S. Lewis Academy board, noted the long-term opportunity the partnership provides. “This is a great opportunity for the students of both schools,” she said. “It is always our goal to continue to improve the academic and special programs offered by the school. Not only will programs be enhanced by this partnership, but also a good foundation will be created for future growth.”
Open Bible Churches is an association of evangelical Pen-tecostal/Charismatic churches throughout the United States with extensive international ministries. Gary Emery is chairman of the board for Open Bible’s Pacific Region and was instrumental in the overall agreement.
“This partnership is a win for the community of Newberg,” said Emery. “I am thrilled for C.S. Lewis and Open Bible to create a first-class educational experience in a positive faith-filled environment.”
The two schools began seriously discussing options just one year ago. Although the merger idea has been discussed in some groups before, this was the first time it really gained traction. C.S. Lewis began using the Open Bible campus as its home basketball site during the 2011-12 season. That situation presented school administrators the ongoing opportunity to begin talking about increasing the opportunities for working together, in one way or another.
Open Bible and its new church, Lifepoint, wanted an opportunity to grow, C.S. Lewis needed to gain the physical space it has longed for to develop its overall education plan, and the greater Yamhill County area would be gaining a fuller, more vibrant, Christian educational choice, according to both parties involved in the agreement. Lifepoint Pastor John Lester, while acknowledging he would miss his relationship with the school, noted the overall win for the community and for his new Lifepoint Church.
“This is an exciting time in the history of our two schools. Although I will miss the day-to-day duties of serving the school, I look forward to the partnership and unity that will come from this union,” said Lester. “I am very delighted to put my full attention to our new church plant, Lifepoint.”
In the agreement, C.S. Lewis will manage all school-related functions, merging the two faculties and staffs. The academy will lease approximately seven acres of land and related buildings on the Open Bible property at 1605 N. College St. Lifepoint Church and the Learning Center pre-school program will still operate from the same location.
The initial plan is for C.S. Lewis to continue to offer pre/K-5th grade classes on its campus at 609 Wynooski St. while the middle school and high school will move to the current Open Bible campus. The academy will vacate a building on South College Street it has leased from the Friends Church since 1985.
C.S. Lewis Lead Administrator Mike McConaugh-ey is excited to have the ability for new collaborations and room for growth.
“While the middle and high school programs are outstanding on their own, the ability for the two groups to be on the same campus offers a number of collaborative opportunities,” said McCon-aughey. “The enhancing of curricular continuity throughout the grade levels will be a great resource for the school. Expand-ing the space offered on the physical campuses will also allow for growth in all of our grade levels. I am really looking forward to the new options afforded by this new partnership.”
While the current pre/K-8 offerings on the C.S. Lewis Wynooski campus will now change to pre/K-5, the more robust classrooms and the quality faculty Open Bible will bring into the new partnership leaves C.S. Lewis grade school principal Roy McConaughey excited about the opportunities on that campus.
“As I look to the future, I know I will miss the daily work with the dynamic middle school of CSLA,” said McConaughey. “However, a new relationship with the high school will enhance the academic potential for them. On the Wynooski campus, we can now focus on expanding our primary and intermediate grade offerings. I look forward to welcoming the OBCS elementary staff and students. Together we will continue to offer excellence in instruction as we meet the individual needs of Pre-K through fifth-grade students.”
lthough specific faculty and administrative assignments are still being worked out, Open Bible Principal Vince Swagerty will be in the middle of the transition and sees great opportunity. Swagerty holds a unique outlook in that he also has held the role of C.S. Lewis boys varsity basketball coach for the past year.
“I believe the partnership between the two schools will be wonderful for Open Bible Christian School students and families,” said Swagerty. “OBCS students will continue to have a strong Christian education and now they will be able to participate in activities currently not available to them. The combined resources of the schools will make the unified school stronger and better able to serve the educational needs of Yamhill County. I can tell you from my perspective as the principal of OBCS and the boys basketball coach at CSLA, the kids at both schools are amazing and truly delightful. I can’t wait to get them all together in one fantastic school.”
The next step in continuing the transition is to hold many scheduled meetings of faculty, staff, parents and students to begin the process of detailing the programmatic changes and the move itself. It is expected that many small groups will tackle the myriad of issues that will need to be discussed and completed prior to the move.
The C.S. Lewis board will direct the transition along with several of its standing subcommittees. The schools intend to start some of the move preparation process this spring, with the full move to occur during the summer
For years, C.S. Lewis has evaluated building sites and opportunities for development. This new partnership is only the first step in what the C.S. Lewis board hopes will be a path toward their ultimate goal of a complete pre/K-12 community on a single campus. A single campus community-style school is at the foundation of the long-term goals for the school. Gohman noted that immediately after this move is completed, continued master and strategic planning would resume, to include the possibility of future purchase and development of the new CSLA facility on North College.
A third Christian school in Newberg is Veritas School, a classical Christian program currently housed behind First Presbyterian Church at 501 Mission Drive, but with long-range plans to construct its own building at the intersection of College Street and North Valley Road.