Faced with going under, Modesto Christian School – an athletic powerhouse known for three state basketball championships and another in football – instead will regroup under new nonprofit ownership on 32 of the campus’s 55 acres in Salida, with plans to continue its 300-student preschool-through-high school Christian education.
Great Valley Academy will move its 774-student kindergarten-through-eighth-grade charter school from Manteca to the remaining 23 acres, occupying some buildings being vacated by Modesto Christian. The academy’s 850-student Modesto school won’t be affected.
“We are unbelievably excited about the future of Modesto Christian School,” said Dr. Glen Villanueva, a Modesto family physician and president of the corporation formed days ago to keep the 53-year-old school alive.
Great Valley Academy, which opened in 2008, will realize a long-term goal of buying its own campus, said CEO Leah Silvestre Franklin.
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We’ll be able to realize a goal of permanence and stability for our staff and families.
Leah Silvestre Franklin, CEO, Great Valley Academy
Neighborhood Church is the property seller and congregation that bankrolled Modesto Christian, and met on Sundays in its basketball gym until recently.
“We feel it’s an answer to prayer that (Villanueva’s) group wants to continue on the ministry of Modesto Christian,” said church pastor Lance Lowell.
“For 53 years, this church was the sole sponsor for Modesto Christian School,” Lowell continued. “We’re pretty proud of that legacy. But it got to the point where it was a little too much.”
The church, with about 250 members, moved last year and leases a former warehouse on nearby Stoddard Road.
Terms of property sales to the new nonprofit organization, Modesto Christian School Inc., and to Great Valley Academy were not disclosed.
Property records show that the value of land and buildings was assessed this year at $6.7 million, plus $1.7 million for an adjoining parcel. The church used the property to secure a $6.4 million loan in 2013, recorded documents say.
Instead of relying on one congregation for financial support, Modesto Christian now can tap other churches. In the meantime, it will lean heavily for “financial undergirding,” Villanueva said, on new board members.
We strongly believe this is a financially responsible plan.
Kevin Bidlack, board member, Modesto Christian School Inc.
They include John Kamps of nearby Ripon, owner of Kamps Propane in Manteca, and Randy and Sue-Ann Anderson; he is an A.G. Edwards executive, and she taught at Modesto Christian in the 1970s, according to a Modesto Bee article in 2001.
Those three recently joined four members of Modesto Christian’s existing board, all of whom will hold officer positions with Modesto Christian School Inc.: vice president Kevin Bidlack, a director at Stockton’s Applied Aerospace Structure Corp. and owner of Modesto’s Fuddruckers restaurant; treasurer Paul Andrew, chief financial officer at Modesto’s CrossPoint Community Church; secretary Wendy Warwick of Modesto; and Villanueva.
“Each has talents and skills that are exquisitely complementary,” said Villanueva, whose daughters are Modesto Christian students.
The school held a meeting Tuesday to share transition plans with parents and faculty. Bidlack, whose daughters graduated from Modesto Christian a few years ago and whose wife is a cheer coach at the school, said he heard “very positive feedback.”
Our congregation has always had faith that this is God’s school and God was going to keep it going some way or another. That turned out to be the case.
Lance Lowell, pastor, Neighborhood Church
“I believe families will follow and stay with Modesto Christian School,” he said. Coaches of its legendary teams “all seemed to be happy. There was no indication they would not be 100 percent behind it,” he said.
Faculty will finish the school year under the existing board’s leadership and will be considered for positions at the revamped school, Villanueva said. “Our desire is to keep as many jobs as possible,” he said.
Modesto Christian produced boys basketball state championships in 1997 and 2004, as well as the NBA’s sturdy Chuck Hayes, who formerly played with the Sacramento Kings. The MC girls basketball team was state champion in 2014 and the football team won the state small schools title in 2009. Drama programs, among others, have achieved acclaim as well.
“They absolutely have been one of the strongest pound-for-pound schools in athletics for at least the past 15 years,” said Will DeBoard, CIF Sac-Joaquin Section spokesman.
Can Modesto Christian maintain high caliber on less property?
“Actually, we’re shooting for more” success, Villanueva said. “We want to raise the floor so that everything we’re currently doing is done better. We have a serious commitment for success and for excellence.”
It was actually miraculous that Modesto Christian School is able to continue.
Glen Villanueva, president, Modesto Christian School Inc.
Many top-tier schools, public and private, thrive on less than 32 acres, Bidlack said. The group is buying the campus’s west and south portions, including all high school buildings; the football field; the basketball gym; and soccer, baseball, softball and practice fields.
Modesto Christian School, founded in 1962 by pastor Roy Blakeley, has had recent struggles but managed to attract 98 new students in the current school year, Superintendent Chuck Howell wrote in the school’s winter newsletter.
Garth Stapley: 209-578-2390