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'Thriving is the best word': Gardner Christian elementary school moves into new home

Meredith Hall
Posted at 5:45 AM, Mar 06, 2024

GARDNER, Kan. — In August 2023, KSHB 41 News reported on a new Christian elementary school in southern Johnson County.

New Life Christian Academy, its director says, is the only private Christian school in the Gardner area with a full five-day week. It began the year inside a church building in Gardner. Now, the school is in its full-time space, which it shares with its partner church, New Life Community.

"It's been really exciting to see the community really rally around us, and get excited about having a Christian school here in Gardner," New Life Christian Academy Director Meredith Hall said. "I think thriving is the best word."

When the 2023-24 school year began, Hall’s makeshift office was a desk in a large church lobby. She knew what her new school was attempting, and what they were asking parents to have.

"I think anytime you start something new that's big, that's on this scale, there does have to be a level of faith," Hall said.

But a few months later, she has an office — and more importantly — 25 students from kindergarten through third grade have a school.

Emelyn Janzen
New Life Christian Academy student Emelyn Janzen, who is in the third grade, speaks with KSHB 41 News about transferring to the new private school in Gardner, Kansas.

"At first I was kind of nervous because I wouldn't see my kindergarten teacher, or my first-grade or second-grade teacher,” third-grade student Emelyn Janzen said. “But when I got here, the teachers here were really nice."

Emelyn is in the third grade, and was in public school last year. She spends part of her day praying and reading the Bible with her classmates, but says the move to a new school wasn't as scary as she thought it would be.

"It doesn't feel overwhelming because there's not that much kids in this school," Emelyn said.

Putting Emelyn and her sister in a school like this was a dream for their mom since the family moved to Gardner four years ago.

"At the time, there was no Christian school in Gardner,” Jonna Janzen said. “So, I kind of patiently was waiting, prayerfully waiting, and I got word that there would be one eventually."

Jonna Janzen had some major questions about a start-up school, especially one that wasn’t even complete yet. But she says that at every stage, those questions have been answered.

"I knew my child, and what would be best for her to flourish," Jonna Janzen said. "Right now, they're like, ‘Mom we love it and we never want to go back.’"

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Going back isn't in the cards for Meredith Hall. Sitting under a painting of the school's mascot, a lion, in her new office, she shared her belief that God wouldn't have brought the school to this point, just for it to fail.

"Just like Noah when he built the ark, he seemed crazy because it had not rained for so long, but then it started to rain," Hall said. “This must be what it felt like when it started to rain."

Kindergarten through fourth-grade registration for next school year is already open, and there are some scholarships available. Because the school will continue to cap the class size at 20 students, Hall says there is already a waiting list for kindergarten.

If you're interested in donating to the school, its major fundraiser is coming up in May; Hall says one of the big needs for next year is playground equipment.