Rangely Christian Academy opens doors

Instructor Gaius Wilkinson works with students enrolled in Rangely Christian Academy, which opened last week. The private school currently has 11 students, but there are hopes to add more in future semesters.

Instructor Gaius Wilkinson works with students enrolled in Rangely Christian Academy, which opened last week. The private school currently has 11 students, but there are hopes to add more in future semesters.
Instructor Gaius Wilkinson works with students enrolled in Rangely Christian Academy, which opened last week. The private school currently has 11 students, but there are hopes to add more in future semesters.
RANGELY I Starting this fall, Rangely parents have another option for schooling kids in kindergarten through eighth grade.
The Rangely Christian Academy opened its doors to 11 students last week, Bible Baptist Church pastor Jasper Whiston said. Most students belong to families who attend the church, though the Academy is open both to members and nonmembers.
While Whiston has long envisioned the church supporting a Christian school, he believes the Academy is a result of God’s timing. Two years ago, several children joined a homeschool group headed by Whiston’s wife, Shannon. As the congregation prayed, Whiston said, church members became increasingly convinced that Bible Baptist needed to support a full-fledged school. Last winter, its members voted unanimously to make the Academy a ministry of the church.
“I was excited and apprehensive all at the same time,” Whiston said, recalling his response when he learned of the vote. “The vision part is easy. It’s the bringing it to task that takes a lot of work.”
Gaius and Sandy Wilkinson, longtime Texas residents with roots in northwest Colorado, moved to Sandy’s hometown of Craig three years ago. The couple had been commuting to Bible Baptist Church for more than a year. Between them, the Wilkinsons had 20 years’ combined experience in Christian education.
Still, when Whiston approached Gaius Wilkinson about heading up the Academy last January, Wilkinson was surprised.
“At first, I was actually shocked,” said Wilkinson, who teaches the first through eighth grade students. “We weren’t necessarily looking for jobs. We wanted to move back to Colorado and were waiting to see what God had for us. It was unique how He brought us here.”
Now, two weeks into the school year, the Wilkinsons are looking forward to what’s to come.
“We’re having a great year,” said Sandy Wilkinson, who leads the kindergarten class in the mornings and helps with older children in the afternoons. “The kids are eager to learn, and that’s what’s so exciting. It just keeps me going to get new things for them each day.”
Before school started last week, the Wilkinsons tested students before matching them to curricula geared to their abilities, Whiston said. Kindergarteners follow the A Beka program, while first through eighth graders use Accelerated Christian Education (ACE), which emphasizes individualized placement and learning along with Biblical instruction.
While the Wilkinsons had to be certified through ACE, classification as a private school means that the Academy is subject to some state standards but has more leniency in areas like student testing and continuing education. Rangely Christian Academy will administer standardized tests starting next year, banking on its learning approach of teaching students what they need to know.
“It’s different than a typical classroom setup,” Whiston said. “Every student that enrolls is given a diagnostic test. And that test determines first, if there are any learning gaps that need to be filled in and second, their performance level, where they can perform and advance from.”
To turn the church’s upstairs into formal classrooms, new lighting has been installed in the kindergarten classroom, and new computers have arrived for the primary and middle school room. Opposite the Academy’s logo painted boldly across a wall runs a row of carrel-like “offices” students settle into after gathering for morning pledges, memory verses and devotions or chapel.
As students move into a ninth grade curriculum and higher, Whiston said, the Academy will begin to offer secondary school levels. Tuition costs are $1,600 per year for the half-day kindergarten program and $2,000 for first grade and higher. Parents can choose monthly options for tuition payment, Whiston said.
Similar to the RE-4 district, the Academy follows an August-May schedule and a four-day school week. As many as 30 primary and middle school enrollees and 10 kindergarten students could eventually be accommodated with current staff and volunteers, Wilkinson said.