EDITOR’S NOTE: We here present the first of two articles on a new school in Denver with a different way of doing things.
DENVER––It’s a unique way of doing school these days, and it’s even “pandemic-proof.”
That’s the word this week from Abby Keener, director of operations at Starboard Christian Academy, located in the family life center of Westport Baptist Church in Denver. Keener explained that the academy presents a hybrid of both campus-based and Internet-based learning, offering its students the best of both worlds. The school is closed for the remainder of the 2019-20 year right now, of course, due to State-mandated virus-related restrictions. But its students are continuing their education at home.
The academy was co-founded by Keener and director of development Jennie Stahler. The two began formulating their ideas four years ago, as Keener revealed.
“Jennie and I were paired in a MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group that met at a local church in Denver,” she said. “We feel that God very intentionally placed us in that group together. God had placed the idea of starting a Christian school on Jennifer’s heart many years prior to us meeting, and she felt it was time to start moving forward with His plan. She was praying for a partner to join in with her, and she threw the idea out to our MOPS group. I had heard of this model prior to meeting Jennie. But the only one in the area was over 40 minutes away from my home, and I had dismissed the idea that our children could attend. When Jennie put the idea out of starting one locally, I felt called to join her.”
And so, in the autumn of 2018, Starboard opened its doors, offering kindergarten through second-grade options.
“The first year, we had 14 students total,” said Keener. “After our first year, we had a 100 percent re-enrollment rate and nearly doubled our enrollment for our second year.”
She continued that the academy is part of a larger, nationwide association called University-Model Schools, Inc., or UMSI. These schools were created in Texas in the 1990’s, when a group of families came together, wanting to create a different model of education that allowed for more time with their children to impart their faith and values, whilst also prioritizing a quality education with professional teachers. All University-Model Schools have both a home-study and traditional classroom component to their schedule, allowing families to have intentional time to help teach and connect with their children, as Keener explained.
“In today’s fast-paced lifestyle,” she said, “and the pandemic has actually mixed this up a bit–– it has become increasingly more difficult to find these slow-down moments in life that allow for important conversations and connections.”
She continued that the UMSI organization provides training and various resources for people who would like to bring such a school to their community. More than 90 schools across America and even one in China now use this model.
“Starboard is what we feel is the best of both worlds between home-schooling and the traditional five days of school,” said Keener, explaining this means splitting up the school week between on-campus learning and in-home instruction, and she continued, “It is a well-known fact that parental involvement in a child’s education is crucial. We’ve seen how powerful it is when the classroom teacher and the parent at home work together as a team in the learning process. There are typically no surprises at parent-teacher conferences with this type of collaboration, as parents are seeing firsthand what their children may struggle with or excel at. And the teaching team can help tailor a learning approach to help the child excel.”
Since opening, Starboard has expanded to include the third grade, and the fourth grade will come this fall, with the plan being to add the next rising grade level annually. There are currently 25 students in three classrooms: nine in kindergarten and eight each in grades one and two. And students are able to take advantage of the family life center’s amenities, including a full-size gymnasium, a cafeteria/multi-purpose room and a walking/running track.
And Keener added that there’s “plenty of room for growth.”
She continued that Starboard’s core study is comprised of mathematics, English language arts, science, social studies and the Bible.
“Each curriculum has been carefully researched and selected to ensure that all of our students are equipped with excellent academic knowledge and skills that enable them to grow from year to year,” she said. “A biblical worldview is woven throughout that allows our students to relate what they are learning to God’s creation and the world we live in. Starboard’s goal is that our students don’t just learn about a topic but that they will also truly know about the people, the places and the events they study.”
To learn more, check out the Website at www.starboardchristian.com.