JEFFERSON COUNTY, Tenn. — In Jefferson County, a new private school opened its doors for the first time after years of construction. The first school year will start in the midst of the pandemic.
Lakeway Christian Academy, the large school building on a corner of Roy Messer Highway in White Pine, was a long time coming for Jefferson County. The community has watched as the landscape changed to accommodate the new educational opportunity.
Dr. Bob Brown said the private Christian school started out as an idea from a man in the community who wishes to remain anonymous.
"Four years ago I was standing on this very site right now on a pile of dirt, so we've come a long way in that period of time," Brown said.
Now classrooms, labs, basketball courts and an auditorium sit where the dream of Lakeway Christian Academy was planted. The school offers everything from robotics, to culinary classes, to digital design opportunities.
"We hope they experience a culture that promotes personal growth, creativity, collaboration both as a staff and as students," headmaster Stephen Denny explained.
On Sunday, the private school opened its doors for the first time for current and prospective families to see inside.
A look inside Lakeway Christian Academy
It's in a unique situation, starting the first academic year in a new building in the midst of a pandemic.
"It has been quite a challenge," Brown explained. "We had hoped to be open last year, but because of construction delays it was pushed back to now, and now the COVID situation and the environment we're in, it has provided more challenges."
The students enrolled at Lakeway for last year's school year were housed at Cornerstone Academy in Morristown.
The administration is focused on getting the over 300 students in classrooms safely, especially since the building will only be at about half capacity at the time school starts on Aug. 10.
The 6-12 school will go back in a "phased" fashion, with "green, yellow and red" options depending on the rise in COVID cases. The "red" option means students will learn virtually.
"We've got the excitement to finally be able to be back together, to be in this new facility and also the concerns about safety and those sorts of things, so we'll definitely have to manage those tensions throughout the year," Principal David McVicker nodded.
While the trophy cases and hallways sit empty for now, the staff is hopeful they can hurdle past this difficult start.
"As much as we've worked and worked over the last couple of years and as much as this feels like a finish line, it really is just the beginning for Lakeway," McVicker smiled.
The sky is the limit and the school has faith their community will expand in the future. Denny said the school is an affordable option for families from all socioeconomic backgrounds, with financial aid options available.
The school will have another open house on Aug. 2 for current and prospective families. Families are encouraged to sign up and register online.