Lakeshore Christian Academy closes

Marie Havenga • Jul 21, 2015 at 11:38 AM

The Rev. Wayne Muri cited declining enrollment as the reason for closing the school at 13664 Lakeshore Ave. in Grand Haven Township.

The academy, which had students in grades 1-12, was an outreach ministry of Lakeshore Baptist Church. Muri is the church's pastor.

Enrollment slid from its peak of 120 students about 10 years ago to 60 in the most recent school year, Muri said. The school's 2012 graduating class was just two students.

“I think there's just a declining interest in Christian-based education,” Muri said. “It's a national trend. We just have an increasingly secular society.”

Muri said the academy's nine full-time teachers were informed of the decision to close last week. A letter was sent out to parents this week.

Muri said the staff is helping to line up education options for its now-former students.

“We're inviting some schools in to make presentations,” Muri said. “We're recommending our teachers to various schools when we hear of openings.”

In March, the school's former administrator, Mark Green, left to become executive director of Love INC, replacing Eric Morgan who was promoted to president/CEO of the nonprofit agency.

Muri said he was deeply saddened by the school's closing, but that he doesn't anticipate any changes at Lakeshore Baptist Church.

“It's a hurtful thing,” he said.

The pastor said parents and teachers didn't seem shocked by the news.

“They could see the handwriting on the wall, too,” Muri said. “They're sad. They realize it's not sustainable.”

According to the school's website, tuition for the 2011-12 school year ranged from $2,400 to $3,089 per student, depending on grade level and church membership status.

Former Lakeshore Christian Academy art instructor Aaron Zenz said church leaders recently sent surveys to congregation members, seeking input.

“I know the church is trying to do their best to discern the wisest ways to use funds,” said Zenz, a Lakeshore Baptist Church member for the past 14 years. “More than anything, they want to be right in the palm of God's will. I know a lot of prayer and tears and conversation went into the decision-making. I think everyone involved is saddened by it.”

Zenz said the closing will be a difficult change for many.

“There are a lot of people whose worlds are going to be very significantly changed by this turn of events,” Zenz said. “Kids are going to be separated from friends, teachers are going to have to be finding different work. It will create a different atmosphere within the church itself. I'm sad for everyone.”

Grand Haven Christian School Principal Rick Geertsma said he empathizes with the Baptist church and academy.

“I'm sure that was a very difficult decision," he said. "They had a pretty long history there.”

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