Mike Campbell didn’t know how Unity Christian school would fare once its pre-kindergarten to Grade 12 programs were all under one roof, but now, after just a few months, he wouldn’t want it any other way.
The school’s principal gushed when he described moments he’s captured since the new school’s soft opening last spring: Grade 12 students reading to pre-school children; a Biology 11 class dissecting worms with a Grade 2 class; high school students volunteering time in Kindergarten.
“I didn’t know what it would look like at first, but it’s been pretty awesome,” said Campbell. “It’s definitely brought us closer together as a school community.”
It’s also brought others into the fold.
Just prior to the new school’s official grand opening, last Thursday, Campbell told The Progress how Unity Christian’s enrollment had increased by 60 students from last year putting enrollment at 291. Its capacity is 350 students.
New parents were also racing for the last two spots available in Kindergarten.
“We have a wait list [for Kindergarten], something we’ve never had before,” said Campbell. “I feel bad having to turn people away, but at the same time, it’s a good problem to have.”
The $4.2 million project included an 80,000 square foot expansion with eight new elementary classrooms on the east wing of the school, four new middle school classrooms and four new high school classrooms on the west wing. A second full-sized gym was added, as was a new wood and mechanics shop separate from the school.
On the outside, $200,000 was put towards upgrading the sports field that “used to be a swamp,” and $100,000 for a new playground.
“We didn’t take any shortcuts building this school,” said Campbell, as he showed off the expansive new playground out the back of the school.
“There used to be nothing out here, just a gym wall and a slow hill of weeds,” and now, “at 5, 6 p.m. this playground is hopping with kids from the neighbourhood.”
Because Unity Christian is a private school, it didn’t get funding from the government. Every dollar that went into this school was a dollar donated by the community, whether through monetary funds, the sale of townhouses built by Unity Christian’s construction company, or labour.
“It takes a community to build a school, especially when we don’t get $3 million from the government,” said Campbell. “This was a massive capital campaign and our community really shone through the process.”
Campbell believes the new amenities at the school will also help build the community around Unity Christian, providing the area with a top-notch playground and sports field, as well as rental opportunities for the gymnasium to be used by churches, tournaments and other such events.
Currently there is no church facility in the Eastern Hillsides and the nearest sports field is in Rosedale.
“The Eastern Hillsides is growing,” said Campbell. “We hope our [school and its amenities] can be a blessing to our neighbours.”
Like it’s been for the Unity Christian community.
“Before, [Unity Christian] was two different campuses that did very little together,” said Campbell. And now, “the community is stronger, enrollment is solid, it’s a beautiful school, and a beautiful place to work in.”