It’s room for growth, both physical and spiritual, that inspired David Schipper to purchase the old Springfield school and five acres at 1639 Killian Road and the 10 acres of farmland next door.
The old Milroy Grade School rests on the smaller plot.
Its tan bricks have stood firm since 1939 when the school was built on a government stimulus following the Great Depression.
What has changed is roughly $2.2 million in renovations made inside as Chapel Hill Christian School, a private elementary with a north campus on Howe Avenue in Cuyahoga Falls, moves its south campus from East Turkeyfoot Lake Road in Green to Springfield this fall.
Schipper is the owner of a self-named commercial real estate group in Akron and the proud father and grandfather of CHCS alumni.
He said he’s always believed in “investment in spiritual development in early years. That’s what kind of drives my wife and I.”
Schipper purchased the old Milroy school in 2008 for $100,000 from Springfield schools as enrollment peaked at CHCS’s south campus.
The Green campus bubbled with students. The parking lot was packed, creating a safety hazard for students who boarded buses or walked to the playground.
And the building, confined on 3.3 acres, had no room outside to grow the 18,000 square feet inside.
So, stymied by congestion, enrollment dipped from 225 in 2009 to 190 students today.
“I think older buildings with older features discourage enrollment ... You’re basically stuck there and you just have the three acres,” Schipper said, noting improvements to the new location.
“Everything is new.”
Inside the new building, school administrators said seemingly minor additions will make a considerable impact for teachers and students, while salvaging a historic relic.
“You’re talking about what people [of Springfield] loved but was left empty, and we’re repurposing it and injecting life into it,” said Administrator John Wilson.
Students at the former school had to cross a busy parking lot before entering a locked, but less secure, entrance.
The new building provides a concrete pathway to the playground that wraps around the parking lot, which separates bus drop-off and pickup from staff parking. The new entrance features a mantrap that funnels visitors through the school’s main office.
The old building provided only one set of bathrooms for students. The new building has bathrooms on each of two floors and near a renovated cafeteria and kitchen.
Administrators said LED lighting, costing an additional $30,000, should reduce energy consumption. And the coal fire furnaces, which heated steam in radiators, have been replaced with natural gas.
A 250-seat gymnasium will offer permanent seating for chapel services, choir worship, Christmas concerts and other community and school events.
The building boasts an occupancy rate of 320 students with the potential to double the number of classrooms, each furnished with Internet-equipped Smart Boards.
“For me, it’s just very exciting because I was a teacher [at the south campus] for 18 years,” said Linda Wise, the school’s principal. “We were limited in growth by the size of the building.”
Administrators are perhaps most excited about a second floor reading nook, overlooking future baseball and softball fields and the playground. In rooms on either side of the nook, students can access online materials in a computer lab or a library.
In keeping with the school’s nondenominational Christian mission, a turquoise blue cross runs diagonally through the carpet connecting the three rooms.
The building is two-thirds completed and should open for school on Sept. 8.
The full $3.7-million project has been made possible through the sale of the Green facility, a $1.5 million loan and pledges from donors that, Wilson and Schipper said, should cover all costs, as well as renovation at the north campus.
Additional proceeds will flow to sister schools in Guatemala, where CHCS’s Connecting Hearts Ministry supports 211 Central American students.
Doug Livingston can be reached at 330-996-3792 or email@example.com.