Transforming Grace: Rebuilding Our School
Just before midnight on Easter Sunday, April 12, 2020, the campus of Grace Baptist Church and Academy was struck by a category 3 tornado, causing catastrophic damage. The buildings were so degraded that 15 structures and over 148,000 sq. ft. were lost.
As quickly as the landscape of our campus changed that Sunday night, so did our development plan for future of our ministry. A plan that had focused on the addition and upgrade of facilities and programs was largely an ongoing remodel but now it became an immediate and comprehensive rebuilding project.
Like many in the surrounding neighborhoods, we lost our house, but we did not lose our home! Our campus has been through an exhaustive analysis and redesign process and will be rebuilt to provide improved and expanded ministries. To accomplish this, it will take more than the insurance settlement and even what FEMA will supplement. As God blesses through the participation of His people, we can rebuild Grace to serve our community with a greater impact than ever before! Please study our Development Plan to see both why and how you could join us as our great GOD TRANSFORMS GRACE!
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Grace Transforms! A school where God changes hearts, minds and futures!
Transformation...It's More Than Just Change...
It's not proprietary; we don't own it. At Grace Academy, we facilitate and participate in the process. Only the power of God can bring about this kind of change in someone's life - and, after all - isn't that the core of Christianity?
A person's character, purpose, direction, their very life and, most of all, their eternal destiny...can be transformed!
Grace Baptist Academy partners with Christian parents, educating their children to transform their world by thinking and living Biblically.
Our Graduate Profile
Faith – a personal relationship with Christ that transforms a daily walk through this world
Discernment – thinking and living Biblically
Discipleship – relationships that lead student growth from mentee to mentor for Christ
Life-long learner – continually acquiring knowledge and using it purposefully and wisely
Engaged/Connected – influencing and impacting their community
Our Core Values
Biblical Truth; the basis of daily life and discernment
Relationships; caring for our students, staff & stakeholders
Partnerships with Parents and Churches
Excellence in Academics, Arts and Athletics
Intentionality in all aspects of school life
Investment in the lives of students
Creativity in the development of programs and facilities
Grace Baptist Academy was founded as a ministry of Grace Baptist Church. In 1978, Dr. Steve Euler assumed the pastorate of a small church in a suburb of Chattanooga. The East Brainerd area, where the church is located, was one of the largest and fastest growing areas of Chattanooga. The church grew quickly and soon the young families expressed a need for a Christian school for their children and the expanding East Brainerd area.
In 1984 the congregation voted to begin a Christian school. Assistant Pastor Dr. Bill Summers was selected to lead the school, and in the fall of 1985, the school opened with a surprising 242 students, well over the benchmark of 150 that had been set. After growing to over 400 students in its second year (1986), the church voted to refinance their properties and building expansion began.
With continued growth, the school added buildings for the high school (1986), a daycare (1989) and a middle school(1995). The soccer field was also reconstructed, adding length, irrigation and lights (1995). In 1997, Dr. Summers retired and David Patrick took on the leadership of the school. During his tenure, a new elementary facility was built (2007) and facilities were expanded for an ever growing athletic program. A combination baseball, softball area was developed (1999) and football was later added (2004). In 2004, the Screaming Eagle Booster Club started a new project to add a plaza and permanent seating around the football field as well as much needed lighting for all three sports sharing that facility. A concession stand (2008) and a restroom facility (2012) were also added to the plaza area.
After 23 years of annual increases in enrollment, Grace experienced our first ever decrease in 2008. What was initially thought an anomaly turned out to be a precedent as a number of factors converged to precipitate the most difficult period in our history. The economic downturn (2009) was followed by a series of difficult transitions in leadership.
In 2011, Bill Summers returned to serve as interim Headmaster. During the next two years of transition, he led some exceptional volunteer efforts including renewed parent involvement. The school board established a search committee to take on a comprehensive process of securing a new Headmaster.
In March of 2013, Matthew Pollock agreed to take leadership of Grace Baptist Academy. Bringing 28 years of experience with Christian education in California and Pennsylvania, he joined a veteran faculty and gifted staff, some who had served at Grace since the earliest years of its existence. Since Mr. Pollock’s arrival, the decline of enrollment has been arrested. The school has operated in the black while maintaining a 5% margin in the budget.
Strides in the academic realm can be noted as well. Joint enrollment classes are now offered though a partnership with Chattanooga State Community College, as well as Bryan College. Advanced placement courses are also included in the high school program. The vocal music program has enjoyed significant success in a variety of competitions. The Learning Support Center has allowed a good number of students who have had certain learning challenges to experience both improvement and advancement in their education.
By early 2020, over $500,000 had been raised in a three year period to complete a number of long-standing projects including construction of the Grace Fitness Center and air conditioning our high school gym . In March, the COVID outbreak forced us to go to a Distance Learning program. Then, just before midnight on Easter Sunday, April 12, the campus of Grace Baptist Church and Academy was struck by a category 3 tornado, causing catastrophic damage to the entire campus. The buildings were so damaged that 15 structures (over 148,000 sq. ft.) were lost and now must be rebuilt. Only the Children's Center was able to be repaired and is now reopened serving close to 100 children once again.
In spite of these challenges, the school finished the 2019-20 fiscal year in the black and enrollment held steady. The Academy is now blessed with a new host, Morris Hill Baptist Church. This church embraced the school by offering their facilities for a temporary home during reconstruction of a brand new campus. As a further testament to the progress of recent years, Grace Academy was voted ‘Best of the Best’, finishing second among all private schools in our area.
After 35 years of serving families in the greater Chattanooga area on the corner of Shallowford and Jenkins, a complete transformation of the campus is now underway with a new master plan for both buildings and grounds being designed and construction beginning literally "from scratch".
Working together to bring transformation to our campus has brought changes in perspective to our entire Grace community. This is evident in our students, parents, and alumni, many of whom still live in the area. The conversation has moved from “can anything be done?” to “what’s next?” With God’s help, proper direction and the full engagement of the Grace community as well as external supporters, the answer to the question is “ANYTHING"!
WHAT WE ARE WORKING TOWARD
Our new campus will consist of five interconnected buildings along with several support buildings and spaces. Interconnected buildings mean that no one need ever again go outside to get to another class or building. These interconnected buildings will include:
- Lower School building
- Upper School and Academic Core building
- Field House and Athletic Building
- Auditorium and Fitness Area
- Worship Center and Christian Education Building
- Outdoor spaces
Lower School building
o Covered, airport-style drop-off
o Large reception area
o Computer & STEAM Labs
o Indoor connectivity to Band and Choir rooms
o Indoor Connectivity to Learning Support, Cafeteria & Gyms
o Safe room
Upper School and Academic Core building
o Multi-functional Commons area
o STEM / Robotics Lab
o Learning Support Center
o Library / Media Center
o Specialized Art Studio, Band & Choir rooms
o Individual music instructional & practice rooms
o Middle / High School Academic classrooms
o Safe Room
Field House and Athletic Building
o 1,000 seat tournament-ready gym
o Coaches offices
o Locker rooms
o Athletic Training facility
o Team Meeting room
o Safe room
Auditorium and Fitness Area
o Combination Gymnasium / Auditorium
o Performance stage area / classroom
o Theater-style seating
o Kitchen (1st floor)
o Aerobic / weight room spaces
o Elevated walking track
o Combination soccer & football stadium w/synthetic turf
o Dedicated baseball & softball fields
o Concessions & Restroom building
o Midway- a multi-use field w/synthetic turf
o Outdoor gardens and learning spaces
o Tennis Courts
Worship Center and Christian Education Building
o Office space
Our Steps Forward
A steering committee consisting of key leaders in our ministry is laboring with intense commitment and diverse skill-sets to implement a strategic plan devised with long-range vision and combined with a healthy sense of urgency.
Our steps forward will be guided by a number of factors including:
2. FEMA assistance approvals
3. Donor participation
The construction cycle sequences the projects to be built. The plan is to begin construction by entering the property on the upper Jenkins Rd. entrance and work in a counterclockwise direction.
a) Proceeds from least permitted projects (site work) to most permitted (educational buildings)
b) Allows the builder to ‘paint themselves out of the room’, i.e. work themselves off the property without doubling back
c) Provides for the possibility of being back on campus next fall
FEMA will be of great service to us in their role of supplementing insurance. While they will accommodate upgrades for current codes and perhaps some green initiatives, there are elements in our plan that we know will fall outside the purview of FEMA.
Although the percentage of the project left to us may not be large, the dollar amount it represents will be greater than any challenge we have yet faced…but the opportunity will also be the greatest we have ever been offered! Would you be willing to partner in raising a few million dollars in order to get a $40 or $50,000,000 campus?
Our Next Step
Having met and exceeded our goal of $200,000 toward our development plan last year, our 'Next Step' goal is $300,000 by the end of 2021. Remember that all donations will support initiatives beyond our insurance settlement and any assistance provided by FEMA.