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Parent-led board changes school name to High Desert Christian Academy

JASON CHANEY - Lee Bailey, seventh- and eighth-grade science teacher, is handed a test from one of his students.

The name has changed from Crook County Christian School to High Desert Christian Academy.

High school has returned, and pre-kindergarten has been added — but that is not all that has changed for Prineville’s lone Christian school.

“This past June, we decided to move forward as a parent group in the school,” said Jeff Halvorson, whose three children attend the school. “We pushed for separation to form our own board and make the school independent.”

Halvorson, who assumed the role of board president, said the decision to separate from the Assembly of God church was made so the parents could take the school in a different direction.

“We got into a bunch of talks with the church and they said they were 100 percent behind us and in support of us doing that,” he said.

Assembly of God pastor Larry McGarry agreed, saying "we are working with them to get through the process."

Operating independent of the church, the board added back the high school classes that the school dropped a few years back, and added preschool to the mix.

“It’s really exciting,” said Casey Allen, a parent of four students at the school who serves as the board secretary. “We are at our highest enrollment (104) we have been at in five years ... That was one of the big pushes for the separation ... The parents really wanted the high school.”

Other facets of the school have gone un-changed. The students will still learn from a Beka-based curriculum tailored for home school and Christian school children.

“It has been around for a long time,” Allen said. “It’s a really solid Christian-based curriculum.”

The location, on the Assembly of God church property, will also remain the same – at least for now.

“Eventually, of course, as we grow, we would like to build our own building,” Allen remarked.

The transition from church-led Crook County Christian to parent-led High Desert Christian Academy happened at a blistering pace, Halvorson said

“Our school year typically starts the last week of August, so we really didn’t have that much time,” he said. The parents created an interim board, and formed their own 501c(3), a decision that spurred the name change. The body will elect new permanent board members at the beginning of next year.

The growth in enrollment has prompted the addition to the High Desert staff. The board hired a part-time teacher to teach high school students, and the first and second-grade class has grown to a point where they are splitting it into two classes.

“We are currently interviewing for another first grade teacher,” Allen said.

But one hire will wait for now. Over the past couple years, the school has struggled to keep a principal on board, and going into the new school year, the position remains vacant.

While that is the case, it appears the board is at peace with the situation, primarily because of their confidence in the experience and expertise of office staffers Maggie Hale and Linda Moore.

“We want to get through this transition before we attempt to find the right person to fill that job,” Allen explained. “It is such a mission of the heart that it takes somebody really special to commit to that position and fulfill all of the needs of the staff, the students and the school.”

The approach, Halvorson added, is that they will “embark on a mission of faith for that position,” and believe that God will bring the right person to them.

“We are excited,” Allen said of the transition. “This is such an amazing opportunity for us, and we feel so blessed to be able to move forward in this direction.”

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