The idea came up at the Whole Works Restaurant, a diner in New Port Richey where locals stop for breakfast and lunch or sip a hot cup of coffee or a cold ice tea while enjoying a side order of friendly conversation.
Owner Brenda Carter and Pat Cubbage, a teacher at the Bayshore Christian School in Tampa, came up with the concept of developing a Christian school in Pasco for conservative evangelical Christians, regardless of denomination.
Carter and Cubbage say their idea has taken root.
In late August, the West Pasco Christian School is scheduled to open its doors to kindergarteners through sixth-graders. At the First Christian Church, 6219 River Road in New Port Richey, the school's tuition is $1,800 per child with discounts for additional children. Fifty children are enrolled so far, Carter said, "But we'd like to see at least 100 (pupils) by the beginning of the school year."
The school is modeled after the Dayton Christian School in Ohio, an interdenominational Christian school founded in 1973 by Claude E. Schindler Jr., author of Sowing for Excellence and Educating for Eternity.
Cubbage applied for a job at the Dayton Christian School in the summer of 1991. "I was really impressed with the curriculum," Cubbage said. "And I love Ohio. It's where I was born and reared. I really wanted to go back there to live."
Cubbage was offered the job, but she turned it down and returned to Florida. "The Lord just laid it on me that there was a need for a school similar to this (Dayton Christian School) in Pasco County."
"Few churches have the resources to establish a quality Christian school on their own," Carter said. "The Bible focuses on unity among churches."
To drum up support, Carter and Cubbage visited pastors throughout the community. A public meeting was attended by roughly 100 members of 10 churches. Some were supportive, others skeptical.
The doors are opening, Carter says, but it has not been easy. "What we've done has happened in little steps. But now we're off and running."
Early on, a board of directors was formed. A curriculum has been developed that integrates Christian values into class work, based largely on the Dayton Christian school's curriculum.
"We didn't have to reinvent the wheel," says Cubbage, although she is quick to say that there will be some differences. "For instance, Dayton Christian uses corporal punishment. We don't believe in that."
Donald Bond, formerly principal of both Grace Brethren School in Pinellas Park and the Westgate Baptist School in Tampa, was offered the job of principal and administrator. "I asked them to give me a week and let me pray about it," he said. Bond agreed to take the job, but insisted on taking no salary.
Office supplies, bulletin boards, a copy machine and computers have been donated. Text books and office furniture were acquired at low cost from the now-defunct New Port Richey Christian School.
Help also came from the First Christian Church in New Port Richey. It offered space for classrooms in their building.
"This is an effort of the Christian community working together," Cubbage said. "This is a Christian endeavor, and every step of the way has been bathed in prayer."
Robert Chauncey, president of the board of directors, says West Pasco Christian School will appeal to many families in the evangelical Christian community.
"The current educational system focuses on the school having the primary responsibility for the education of children," he said. "We believe that the primary responsibility for education is with the parents in the home. The values and goals of the school should be parallel to the values and goals that have been established in the home. Therefore, the school is nothing more than an extension of the Christian home."
The school will require that at least one parent be a born-again Christian and be in agreement with the school's statement of faith and educational objectives.
Academically, the curriculum will be in keeping with a traditional approach, Cubbage said. "We're offering a phonics-based reading program that's much more advanced than what they're teaching in the public schools. The textbooks we use are a combination of Christian and secular publishers that have been specifically chosen to meet the needs of students at every grade level."
The school also will offer art, music, physical education, computer instruction and Spanish.
"Our goal is to be accredited by the Association of Christian Schools International," Chauncey said. "That process takes about four years."
The group eventually plans to extend its education program to include higher grades. "The elementary program can be self-sustaining," Cubbage said. "But with higher grades, you need libraries, laboratories, intramural sports. Those things cost a lot of money."
"But who know?" Carter said. "If we can get this far, starting with nothing, we believe anything can happen."