ARLINGTON — It’s kind of like getting remarried, school board members say.
Except that this couple split up 25 years ago and now they have 75 children back under one roof.
Arlington and Highland Christian schools merged this year into the Arlington Highland Christian School. Classes started this week.
The two private, nonprofit schools were originally the same institution, formed in 1975 to provide Christian education for families in Arlington and Marysville.
The schools split in 1989 due to disagreements about the administration, school board member Hank Raap said. The division wasn’t related to curriculum, he said, and the schools kept the same values and taught similar classes during their years apart.
“Change always involves work, but as far as attitude goes, it’s been very upbeat,” lead high school teacher Wendy Tavenner said. “Bringing the curriculum together has not been a problem at all because of our shared values.”
She taught at Highland Christian School for three years and doesn’t know much about the split, aside from the fact that it took decades to heal. She’s happy to see the schools reunited.
Last year, Highland Christian School found itself without a permanent home after losing its lease at the old Arlington High School building because it was not up to seismic standards. Meanwhile, Arlington Christian School had its own campus but few students and only three teachers, two of whom were ready to retire.
“It became apparent to both organizations that to survive, let alone thrive, the only reasonable thing to do is come back together,” Raap said.
The school boards had talked about reuniting for years, but nothing had panned out. With about a month left before the start of school, the group decided the time was right.
“We’re putting back together what God originally meant to be together,” school board member Hannah Waagen said. “We’ve made right with each other and we’ve made right with the Lord.”
Highland staff and students moved to the Arlington Christian School campus at 2425 200th St. NE. The school now has 75 students and 18 teachers and other staff, and it’s looking to grow, Waagen said.
The school teaches kindergarten through 12th grade. It has the core classes parents would expect to find at a public school with the addition of Bible studies and chapel time, Waagen said.
“I love it,” she said. “It’s been home for my kids.”
The organization is a nonprofit and relies on tuition, donations and fundraisers, like an annual walk-a-thon and auction.
They also get a lot of help from volunteers.
Families and neighbors worked alongside teachers to get new classrooms ready on a tight timeline, Tavenner said.
Her classroom was a storage space piled high with supplies and furniture.
She and a group of volunteers cleared out the clutter and replaced it with desks, chairs and decorations.
“It’s been an amazing example of teamwork, not only between the schools but with the parents and students and community,” Tavenner said.
There are a few differences after the merge, she said. The biggest are that Highland students have more space and Arlington students have more classmates.
Looking to the future, the goal is to get more students and add some adult activities, such as parenting classes and support groups, Raap and Waagen said. Eventually, administrators hope to add a gymnasium and more class space, Tavenner said.
The merged school also needs a new name and logo.
Though the board is aiming for some growth, the school isn’t going to get too big, Waagen said.
They want to keep class sizes small — 15 students per teacher — and make sports and clubs all-inclusive so no student is turned away based on tryouts or auditions.
In past years, Highland Christian School set a theme for students to focus on, usually a positive trait like trust or honesty.
The tradition is being carried over to the new school.
This year’s theme was an easy choice, Tavenner said.
Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more about the school, including tuition rates and enrollment dates, people can call the school’s main office at 360-652-2988.