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Marshalltown Christian School building finding a way

CONTRIBUTED PHOTOS Even though Marshalltown Christian School began in 2006, it did not have its own building until 2016. The school is slowly paying off the debt for the construction.

It started as an idea from a couple of grandparents who longed for Christian education for their grandchildren in Marshall County. One year later, the school was started and hosted in New Hope Christian Church in Marshalltown. The school briefly moved to E-Free Church before moving back to New Hope. 

Now, 14 years after opening its doors in 2006, Marshalltown Christian School is in its own building — and has been since January of 2016. The building has been a great triumph for the small school, but it has also brought some of its own difficulties.

The school getting its own building was not a real possibility in its early years, as Administrator Bethany Wirin said. It was not until the board and parents of students began to express a feeling for a strong identity that things got moving towards a standalone site.

“The board and parents felt strongly that they wanted the school to have its own identity,” Wirin said. “We have 15 churches represented here. We weren’t affiliated with a church, we were non-denominational Christian. So, we really wanted it to be Marshalltown Christian School, and that really drove the need for our own space.”

The school seriously began to look for property to have its own school building. After multiple opportunities to take over existing property that fell through, MCS was able to make a cash purchase of land right next to the current Journey Church and begin construction. 

The school has five classrooms and splits up its students into kindergarten, first/second grade, third/fourth grade, fifth/sixth grade and seventh/eighth grade. In a normal school year, Wirin said the school liked its ability to have kindergarteners interact with middle-schoolers, but during the pandemic things have changed and each class is required to sit at one table during lunch hours.

It’s been a benefit to the faculty and students, Wirin said. 

“Of course you can learn a lot from packing and unpacking with a humble heart every week,” Wirin said. “It’s nice we’re able to utilize the space to bring God glory, and that’s what they try to do in every class.”

The smaller number of total students allows them to remain socially distanced in the classrooms.

During the construction, the school had to take out a loan in order to finance the building’s completion. The loan set back MCS $700,000, and during the past few years, the school has held major events as fundraisers – working to lower the amount owed and open up new avenues for the school to maintain the building’s condition and provide more opportunities for students. 

Some of these events include the recent Drive-Thru Picnic held Sept. 20, in which over 100 customers received carryout meals prepared by a group of volunteers. On Veteran’s Day, Wirin said the school is planning to hold an event to honor veterans in the school’s cafeteria/worship center with parents and grandparents of students. This is something they have held in years past as well and one of the biggest fundraisers the school holds. 

There are also still plans to hold the annual Christmas gathering. 

The school has also partnered with the Iowa STO (School Tuition Organization) and the Heart of Iowa STO to encourage donations for students who have financial need. The fund then disperses the money to students and help pay for their tuition. Wirin said 31 students at the school qualify for financial assistance and it’s something that she wants to draw more attention to. Each year they raise $40,000, and $25,000 has been raised in 2020 so far.

One benefit the school is trying to emphasize is the 65 percent tax credit provided on Iowa taxes. Wirin hopes it can incentivize people to help out students and continue the school’s mission. 

“The dollars come straight to us and we can get them out to those in need,” Wirin said. “Thirty-one of our 53 kids qualify for the program, so it really does help a lot of people.”

Navigating education in the midst of a pandemic and with debt that gets smaller with each passing year, Marshalltown Christian School is focused on the future, as well as the present. 

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Contact Noah Rohlfing at 641-753-6611 or nrohlfing@timesrepublican.com.

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