They are reunited, and it feels so good.
Sandy Creek Christian Academy junior high and high school students spent the past year and a half attending classes in a new location at 5707 N. Sandy Creek Drive in Seymour.
But the Little Angels Daycare infants and preschoolers and the school’s elementary students were still at the downtown Seymour location, which is a part of The Tabernacle church building at 301 Indianapolis Ave.
Earlier this month, the staff members and more than 170 children could say for the first time that they were all under one roof.
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“I feel like I’m in a dream,” said Misty Arrowood, the junior high and high school administrator.
At the old building, she said students and staff dealt with various issues, including water damage in the basement and having to put decorations on the wall to cover it up.
That’s no longer necessary.
“Now, it’s like I don’t want to put anything on my walls because they are beautiful,” she said, smiling.
For 32 years, the school, formerly known as Seymour Christian Academy, has provided Christian education to area children.
Eight years ago, however, officials wondered about the school’s future because only 33 students were projected for the next school year. They considered closing the doors.
Aaron Arrowood, who had been a youth pastor since 2000 and had just become the school’s headmaster, wasn’t about to let that happen.
“He said, ‘I see the difference that it makes in our kids,’ and so he said, ‘Please don’t (close the school). Give me a chance.’ He’s like, ‘Don’t pay me. I want to make it work,’” Misty said.
The next school year began with 56 students and has grown ever since. This year, there are 115 students in kindergarten through 12th grade and 62 children at Little Angels Daycare.
That growth resulted in school officials looking into a new location because they were landlocked in downtown Seymour. Classes also were cramped.
After looking at a few options, the Sandy Creek Drive building, which formerly housed a carpenters union, was available at just the right price.
“All of that was God because it all happened at that moment,” Misty said.
She said the students walking prayer circles around the new building also helped.
“They would come and leave on their break and drive over here and pray,” she said.
Once the property was purchased, remodeling began. The students also had a hand in that, including cleaning up, tearing down and removing items from the building.
After classrooms were completed on the first floor, junior high and high school students moved in.
When the second level was completed, they moved to the second floor, while the daycare, preschool and kindergarten through second grade moved into the lower level.
The second floor also contains a chapel and a library. The school purchased discounted shelving from the Jackson County Public Library, and the students filled the shelves with books they had collected for three years.
For two weeks in December, the student council conducted a fundraiser to buy furniture for the library. They wound up raising $5,300, including one person donating $2,000, and used that money to buy tables, chairs, two couches and a few other items. Those who donated at least $100 will have their names put on a plaque, which will be hung on a wall in the library.
During Christmas break, Misty said people were in the building nearly every day except Christmas doing some last-minute work, including building a platform in the chapel and installing lockers.
That was all done by the time classes resumed Jan. 4. The daycare opened five days later at the new location.
Rebekah Mains, the daycare director, said the downtown location had separate classrooms, but the common area in the middle of those rooms in the new building makes it feel like a larger space.
“You don’t feel like there are 62 kids here because of the way the space is set up,” she said. “In the other building, we felt like we were all just on top of each other.”
The common area features space for teacher-guided instruction with tables and chairs. At the other end of the room is a small rock-climbing wall and a playhouse with Legos and building blocks.
In the middle of the room is Sparkles Market, which features kitchen toys. It’s named in honor of former preschool teacher Elizabeth Sparks, who lost her battle with breast cancer March 14, 2015.
Some funds from a memorial walk were used to create Sparkles Market.
“She loved art. She loved playing with the kids. She loved to see them using their imagination,” Rebekah said of Sparks. “I wanted to create a space that was not going to be something like they had at home. I wanted it to be a unique experience when they were coming to daycare.”
Brittany Gibson, who teaches the 4-year-old preschool, said her students like the new classroom and common area.
“The kids are excited, and they are ready to listen,” Gibson said. “Everything is new to them, and so they are wanting to be super careful, but yet they know they can have fun at the same time.”
Individual restroom facilities for each class, access to a gymnasium and a covered drop-off and pickup space also are perks of the new location, Rebekah said.
At the previous location, students had to walk across the road and railroad tracks to access the gym and playground.
Also, her office is now closer to all of the classrooms.
“They are not walking across the building. I am right here in a central location, where if they need something, I’ve got a good eye on everything,” she said.
All of the young students and the staff members are excited about the new environment, Rebekah said.
“It is a little emotional to see months and even years of planning all come together,” she said. “It really has been not just a team, it has been an army of people coming together volunteering. It has just been a collaborative effort.”
The junior high and high school students also like their new space.
Seniors Drew Mains and Matthew Arrowood have gone to the school since preschool. They remember being in cramped classrooms in the basement of the downtown building.
“When we were really young, I never realized how cramped it was,” Matthew said. “Until we got to middle school and high school and they put us all the way down into the basement, that’s when it really started to kick in like, ‘We’re running out of space.’ More people started coming to the school, and we were really getting to the point where every class was a struggle because the classrooms were so small.”
Matthew said it was great to see everything come together to allow for the purchase of the Sandy Creek Drive building.
“God provided the way for that, and then we didn’t see the money to be able to finish the construction, and peopling kept donating, and we kept getting miracles one after the other,” he said. “It was just so cool to see God provide for us to be able to get this building and see His will being accomplished.”
Once remodeling began, Matthew said several youth events were conducted where students helped tear things down and throw things away.
“It was just really cool to be able to do the prework part where we were setting everything up for the construction guys to come in,” he said. “It cut a lot of time off their job.”
While recently helping with a cleanup project before classes resumed, Drew said he was able to realize all of the work that had been accomplished.
“I was standing upstairs, and I remember it used to just be an open warehouse area. There used to be nothing there,” he said. “I was like, ‘Man, this is incredible.’ What has been done in the past year has just been a drastic change from what it was. It’s awesome.”
The gymnasium is the next focus. The area now contains a couple of basketball goals, a kitchen and cafeteria tables. Misty said students have been discussing ways to raise money for new goals and to get the floor painted.
Also, the back of the building is supposed to house the church once the downtown building is sold. But with 36 acres still available on the new property, it’s possible a new church building could be built.
“My dream and hope is that when that building sells that we’re able to just go ahead and build a church and use that (space in the back of the school building) for the school,” Misty said. “Actually, when we moved in, we’re already trapped now. We don’t have enough room.”
While the school’s 11 seniors will only be able to enjoy everyone being in the same building for a semester, they are going to make the most of it.
“We’re closer, and it is a cool feeling having everybody here and just the school being alive,” Matthew said.
Drew said he’s glad the younger kids at the school will be able to enjoy it for years to come.
“I’m happy that I got to be a part of this for them,” he said. “But also, who knows? Maybe in a few years, I could come back and substitute teach a class. I’ll definitely be back.”