Grande Ronde Academy’s footprint has grown, and along with it the school’s future. After Valley Fellowship Church sold the land to GRA in August, the private school took over the remainder of the building that it had been sharing with the church for the last five years. This move could mean an increase in enrollment and course offerings.
Founded in 2001, GRA is an interdenominational Christian school that teaches kindergarten through eighth grade. Currently the school has 35 students enrolled with class sizes of about eight students in combined grade classrooms. The expansion of the school’s property will provide more room for additional students, according to the school’s director, Phillip O’Reilly.
“It also communicates a level of stability to the community that we are here to stay,” O’Reilly said.
Before taking over the building that housed Valley Fellowship Church, GRA shared the auditorium and kitchen spaces and rented the classrooms. Being in a church has proven beneficial, O’Reilly noted, because it has many useful facilities, such as a kitchen for the school to serve hot lunches and the auditorium to hold weekly chapel services.
Having the entire building to use provides the possibility of expanding education to ninth and 10th grades and adding new science labs and programs. Because the school has just recently acquired the space, O’Reilly said, the administrators are focused on reorganizing and learning the best ways to utilize the facilities for the students who are currently enrolled.
“We are in the embryonic stages,” O’Reilly said. “We are considering creating a capital campaign to raise funds for things the school needs.”
GRA is one of five private schools in the La Grande area. O’Reilly said there are several reasons parents may choose to enroll their children in private school.
“There is a perception that classes are more rigorous,” he said. “At GRA that is accurate, and you can see it in kids testing one or two grades above their level.”
The GRA director pointed out that private schools often offer smaller classrooms and more hands-on learning, which has been shown to result in better retention of the material students are learning.
O’Reilly referred to the moral and ethical component that comes with a faith-based educational institution. He said often schools like GRA allow for broader education because they aren’t limited by restrictions on teaching religious curriculum.
“I found all these subjects come back to moral and ethical questions,” O’Reilly said about his experience with teaching.