School principal Sarah Lauder (left) and founder and guide Tracey Verilla categorize books at the Christ United Methodist Church school at 1359 Pennsylvania Avenue in Tyrone. Mirror photo of Patrick Waksmunski

TYRONE – With the opening of two new schools, parents in the Tyrone area have additional choices as children return to school this month.

King’s Academy, a homeschool hybrid, and Tyrone Christian Academy, a non-denominational Christian school, will open classes on August 23, with King’s Academy welcoming around 50 students and Tyrone Christian more than 40.

Although the Tyrone Area School District and St. Matthew’s Catholic School are losing some students, officials said they were supportive of the new schools.

“Each of these programs offers something different from each other and from a public school setting, giving parents the flexibility to choose what they think is the best option for their children, whatever those reasons may be,” said Tyrone Area Superintendent Leslie Estep.

“I am happy that people want a Christian education for their children,” said Reverend Jozef Kovacik, pastor at St. Matthew’s. “I’m sure we’ll lose a few students, but as long as they get the education they want, I’m happy.”

The new schools will have an economic impact on existing schools, although the magnitude is unknown.

“Tuition fees will have to be increased” Kovacik said of St. Matthew’s. Parents will pay what they can afford, he said, noting that scholarships are available.

Estep said the public school system could also be affected, but it’s too early to tell if the new schools will have any economic effects.

“There are a number of factors that would come into play,” says Estep. If the district loses too many students to other educational options, it could negatively affect the district’s average daily enrollment, which is used in calculating various state grants, she said. declared.

The two new schools aim to educate students in a Christian setting.

King’s Academy

King’s Academy is located in Christ United Methodist Church, 1359 Pennsylvania Ave., which school founders Nathan and Tracy Verilla recently purchased.

Nathan Verilla said he had a vision about 15 years ago to start the school and once the pandemic hit it became a reality.

“There was more time at home with the kids,” said Tracy Verilla.

The Verillas had been homeschooling their children for about two years and last year attended Access Hybrid Co-op at State College, a Christian homeschooling co-op.

Because the Verillas knew other families who were homeschooling their children, “We thought it would benefit their families,” Tracy said.

Sarah Lauder, a family friend who wanted to homeschool her own children, will run the school.

As a home-school hybrid, King’s Academy students will meet 3.5 days a week to focus on academics and spend 1.5 days at home.

It’s a partnership between parents and school, Lauder said.

“Parents, Tracy and I work together to make sure students get what they need,” they said.

Due to the flexible schedule, some children may have three full days at school and two at home.

“We are flexible” said Lauder. “It’s an amazing concept, and we’re excited about the idea.”

Lauder and Tracy Verilla, both former teachers of the Tyrone School District, will serve as “guide”, the name they prefer to teachers. There will be two apprentice guides and support from various community members for other activities such as theater and art.

“We want to create lifelong learners who can think creatively and solve problems,” said Lauder. “We want to create lifelong learners who love learning – learning to do things by doing and diving deep into each subject.”

School enrollment includes children from 4 years old through sixth grade, with students coming not only from Tyrone and Bellwood, but also from Portage, Roaring Spring, Huntingdon, State College and the Altoona area.

The school is not divided by class.

“We have multi-age classes”, said Lauder. “There are many benefits to learning from your peers. It is a learner-centered environment.

Additionally, the school uses some of the Montessori philosophies, an education method based on self-directed activity, hands-on learning, and collaborative play.

King’s Academy will offer six different sessions during the school year. All students will learn business skills and there will be a number of vocational options, such as lessons in music, cooking, baking, sewing, drama and acting.

The school has offered sports camps this summer and students will receive training in various sports and other activities. Students can participate in sports and extracurricular activities in the neighborhood in which they reside, Lauder said.

Funding for the school comes from tuition fees – set at $250 per month per student – ​​and parents are responsible for transporting their children

As opening day approached, Lauder and the Verillas said they were excited about the new venture.

“We want it to feel like home and like family,” said Lauder. “I have always told the children that we are a family, it is the heart of the whole school. We want them to be delighted to be here and to be safe and loved and to have look forward to going to school every day.

Plans are underway to expand the school to middle and high school levels for the next school year.

Tyrone Christian Academy

Located in the Community Worship Center building on Bald Eagle Avenue, Tyrone Christian Academy will have a strong emphasis on academic excellence and spiritual formation, principal Brandon Hartman said.

Several years ago, church officials felt there was a need for a Christian school, he said, and “we felt this was the time to make it happen.”

With Christian families looking for a Christian school option, plans were drawn up less than a year ago for the school to offer K-12 classes.

“We will be Bible-based in everything we do,” said Hartmann. “Every program we present is Bible-based and academically linked. Students will be able to be open about their faith.

The school also focuses on life skills, offering a special lesson that all students will take each week to tie into the educational curriculum, he said.

Hartman said organizers expected a small turnout for the first year, with students coming from the Tyrone, Altoona, State College and Huntingdon areas. About 40 students are enrolled this year, a number he says shows how many people want a Christian education for their children.

“For the first year, this is impressive considering the small size of the area we are in,” he said. “We continue to take registrations. … People are still discovering us.

Hartman said kindergarten students will be in one class, while first and second grades will be combined, as will third and fourth, then fifth and sixth grades.

The school plans to have nine teachers. Elementary teachers will have specific grades from kindergarten through sixth grade. Middle and high school students will have specialist teachers, Hartman said.

“We will also be offering online courses through Liberty University,” Hartman said, although less than half of the classes will be on this platform.

The school is privately funded through family tuition, church donations and various fundraising events, Hartman said.

The school has three levels of tuition – $4,992 per year for kindergarten through fifth grade; $5,400 per year for grades six through eight and $6,000 for grades nine through 12.

“Not everyone pays for this, there are scholarships and grants available,” said Hartmann. “We don’t want to exclude anyone because of finances.”

Because the school will sponsor a rifle team, it was a member of the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association.

“To join the PIAA, we had to sponsor at least one sport,” he said, noting that the school hopes to expand its offerings in the future.

Additionally, transportation is available for students coming from the Tyrone, Bellwood-Antis and Juniata Valley school districts, while families outside that area will need to provide transportation, Hartman said.

The long-term goal is to increase enrollment and staff so that there are independent grade levels and there is no need to take additional classes online, he said.

Eventually, the school will need a permanent location, either through major renovations to the current space or a new location.

Ultimately, the goal is to create an environment for students that makes them want to come to school.

“If they want to be here, they will learn” he said.

Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 814-946-7467.

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