Wednesday, Jan. 16 2008
School plans to move, expand
By David Hunn
TOWN and COUNTRY — The region's largest evangelical Christian high school has
submitted plans to build a vast new campus here, at what school leaders are
calling the crossroads of the region.
The new $50 million Westminster Christian Academy will sit on 70 wooded acres
just south of Highway 40. Plans include a hockey rink, two theaters, two gyms,
five playing fields, an eight-lane swimming pool, 10 tennis courts, 878 parking
spaces and a 300,000-square-foot school built for 1,200 students.
The move propels Westminster into competition with some of the oldest private
schools in the area. It also comes at a time when large Christian schools
across the nation are blooming in enrollment, acreage and prominence.
Leaders, students and parents are excited.
"We're growing out of our ears here," said Denise Porter, a mother of two
Westminster students. "We need the space."
Westminster's new campus will double the school's current 30 acres on Ladue
Road in Creve Coeur, and dwarf that of many St. Louis schools. Whitfield School
sits on 25 acres, St. Louis University High on 27, John Burroughs on nearly 50.
All have recently expanded.
For Westminster, the boost in technology, art, drama and athletics represents a
coming of age.
For St. Louis, Westminster's move is another western shift of the area's
private school corridor.
Almost 10 years ago, Christian Brothers College high school announced it would
move from Clayton to a campus deep in the county. The corner of Highway 40 and
Interstate 270, leaders said, was the new intersection of Main and Main in St.
Louis. To serve the entire area, CBC would move there.
Now, other schools are thinking the same. In August last year, the Churchill
Center and School moved from Ladue to an 11-acre campus just west of 270.
Westminster first thought it would move just part of its school to the area.
Now it aims to move all grades, 7-12, and sell the Ladue Road site, at least in
part simply because it has grown so quickly — adding almost 350 students since
It now schools 865 students, already medium-to-large for a private school.
School leaders think it can add an additional 350 over the next 10 years.
Taylor Smith, a vice president at the Association of Christian Schools
International, said Christian schools had come a long way since the 1970s boom
in church annexes and basements.
Now, many are growing in enrollment and acreage, he said. And as they grow, so
does their stature in the private school community.
"This could be a model," said Greg Dosmann, father of two, "that rivals any
public or parochial high school out there."
But some parents are cautious, too.
Angie Anderson, a Westminster mother, said she was thrilled that the school
would keep all the students on one campus. But she hopes tuition — already
$10,400 a year — stays reasonable.
And Porter wants to make sure that the school doesn't focus too much on west
St. Louis County families — that it targets diversity, too. After all, it's not
the fancy campus that draws her.
"This is a Christian school," she said. "... If that changes, I'm gone."
Head of School Jim Marsh assures parents it will not.
"We're ready for this," he said this week. "We have a very clear focus."
Leaders submitted plans to Town and Country last week. They've raised $12.5
million so far, and must double that by the end of July. Construction is set to
start in 2009.
Then, if all goes well, the new school, at the corner of St. Louis' new Main
and Main, will open in fall 2010.
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