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Unity Christian extends reach

Private school system marketing to Sterling, Rock Falls

Published: Tuesday, April 30, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, April 30, 2013 12:32 p.m. CDT
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(Alex T. Paschal/apaschal@saukvalley.com)
Unity Christian senior Garith Shinkle and junior Kyra Archer work on art pieces in class Monday morning. Classes in the nondenominational private school system average about 10 students each.
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(Alex T. Paschal/apaschal@saukvalley.com)
Unity Christian has about 140 students and three school buildings: a preschool and day care center, an elementary school and a middle and high school. Principal Chris Pluister says he's seen a slight increase in enrollment since Sterling Christian School closed, and he expects even more students next year.
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(Alex T. Paschal/apaschal@saukvalley.com)
High school students move between classes Monday morning at Unity Christian in Fulton. In the wake of the recent closure of Sauk Valley Christian Academy in Galt, the nondenominational school system that has long served the Fulton and Clinton, Iowa, areas, including Morrison and Mount Carroll, now wants to make its offerings known to families in the Sterling-Rock Falls area.
Caption
(Alex T. Paschal/apaschal@saukvalley.com)
Fulton Unity Christian history teacher John Kotman quizzes his students Monday morning.

FULTON – Unity Christian Schools are opening their doors to a broader community of families seeking a private, Christian education.

The nondenominational school system has long served the Fulton and Clinton, Iowa, areas and attracted families from Morrison and Mount Carroll. It now also is marketing its offerings in the Sterling-Rock Falls area after Sterling Christian School closed in December.

"Sterling isn't in our community, per se; however, we want all students to have access to a Christ-centered education," said Principal Chris Pluister, who has been at the helm for almost a full year. "Sterling Christian is no longer there, so that leaves ... [Faith Christian] as far out as Grand Detour [for a nondenominational Christian school]."

Four families have come to Unity since the Sterling school – most recently known as Sauk Valley Christian Academy – closed this winter. More are expected with the start of a new school year in the fall.

"There are still families who are seeking a private, Christian education," Pluister said. "We want to open our door to them. We're not in competition with anyone else in the area, but we want to make sure every family in the area has access to our schools."

Unity has three school buildings: a preschool and day care center, an elementary school and a middle and high school.

It serves almost 140 students, about half of whom come from Iowa, and class sizes across all grades average about 10 students.

Its teachers all have at least a bachelor's degree, if not a more advanced degree, and state certification.

The curriculum, based on biblical principles, is college preparatory and includes English, math, science, social studies and fine arts. Students have many of the same opportunities as their public school peers, including academic support, field trips and extracurricular sports and activities.

The schools even offer busing for students on two routes from Mount Carroll and Morrison to Fulton, as well as a hot lunch program.

"We have all the things you look for but think you might not get with such small class sizes," said Pluister, a former public school teacher.

Unity, which is accredited through Christian Schools International as well as the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement, requires all families to obtain a pastoral recommendation to attend the schools.

"We're in covenant with Christian families," Pluister said. "We are working in concert with them. We're like-minded. We have the same goals."

Unity has students from about 40 different churches. The school system doesn't look at it as diversity as much as it considers it unity among the varying doctrines and faith experiences.

"What are we about? We're Christ-centered," Pluister said. "Ultimately, what we've got is a large group of families who desire Christ-centered education for lives of discipleship."

Area faith-based schools

Other private, religious schools in the area include:

– Christ Lutheran School, 2000 18th Ave., Sterling. Prekindergarten to eighth grade; christlutheranschool.com or 815-625-3800.

– Faith Christian School, 7571 S. Ridge Road, Grand Detour. Preschool to high school; fcsfalcons.wordpress.com or 815-652-4806.

– Newman Central Catholic High School, 1101 W. 23rd St., Sterling. High school; newmancchs.org or 815-625-0500.

– St. Anne, 112 N. Brinton Ave., Dixon. Preschool to eighth grade; stanneschooldixon.org or 815-288-5619.

– St. Mary School, 704 S. Peoria Ave., Dixon. Preschool to eighth grade; stmarysdixon.org or 815-284-6986.

– St. Mary's School, 6 W. Sixth St., Sterling. Prekindergarten to eighth grade; smsterling.webs.com or 815-625-2253.

– St. Andrew Grade School, 701 11th Ave., Rock Falls. Preschool to eighth grade; standrewgradeschool.com or 815-625-1456.

Unity plans open house

FULTON – Unity Christian Schools will have an open house from 2 to 7 p.m. May 9 at the elementary school building, 1000 11th Ave., and at the junior high/high school building, 711 10th St.

Call 815-589-3912 or email barbwright@mchsi.com for more information. Go to unitychristian.com to learn more about the schools.

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