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East County Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019 1 month ago

Lakewood Ranch church aims to open preschool

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Risen Savior Lutheran Church builds a $70,000 playground for new preschool.
by: Pam Eubanks Senior Editor

Risen Savior Lutheran Church soon will start its own faith-based preschool to be called Risen Savior Academy.

Early in October, contractors installed a $70,000 playground at the church campus. Risen Savior Pastor Caleb Free said the playground is the first step toward creating an educational program at the church.

“This has been a two-year discussion with our church,” Free said. “We believe it’s a need that can be met for young families.”

When Risen Savior was constructed 10 years ago at 14605 59th Ave. E., Bradenton, it was designed with a vision to have a school one day. The church interior was completed in March 2018, at which time the sanctuary was finished, and an educational wing was added.

In the educational wing, three classrooms now used for Sunday school lessons will be converted into preschool classrooms for children ages 2-4. The 120-member congregation is investing about $125,000 on the project, including the playground, fencing, security enhancements and a remodeling of classrooms.

“For a preschool startup, we want to emphasize quality over volume,” preschool committee member Cathie Dearing said. “It’s a big investment. We want the facility to be equal to the quality of the instruction and guidance we hope to offer.”

Caleb Free said the church is doing a study looking out 10 years, and a school for children in elementary through high school could become part of the plan.

He said he easily envisions offering a full pre-K program within three years and possibly offering first through third grades within five years.

“If we do that, we would look at changing the entire building and use the other five acres [we own] to build,” Caleb Free said. “This would all be transitioned.”

Free said the church is focused on sharing the Gospel and wanting to minister to families.

Dearing agreed and said a small program is ideal and has worked for other programs.

“We’re not in a big hurry to take on more than we can at this point, but we see it as a launching point,” Dearing said. “A huge motivator for our little church is not just to serve the children but to serve their families as well. The real emphasis is on family dynamics, family strength. We hope not to be just strictly drop-off and pickup. We really want to connect to the families as well and have them be part of our school community.”

Free’s wife, Kristin Free, has a background in education and is serving as the preschool’s interim director.

She said the church plans to host an open house in January and will welcome its first group of children in August 2020. Between now and then, Risen Savior will hire a full-time director for the preschool program.

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