After 25 years of operating out of temporary classrooms, Faith Christian School is getting a permanent home.

The Detroit Lakes parochial school broke ground in early May on a construction project that will add four new classrooms, a half-gym, kitchen, storage space and more to the back of Faith Lutheran Church, doubling the school's previous space for its K-8 classes and also making room for a new full-time preschool program.

Paul Larson, pastor at the church, said the expansion was necessary due to increasing student numbers, a community need for more preschool programs, and aging facilities at Faith Christian. Until now, the school was being run out of temporary classrooms and a double-wide trailer at the back of the church.

“We’ve seen the numbers go up some, and we started running out of room, and also the buildings were just getting run down,” Larson said. “People are excited about something permanent taking place.”

A groundbreaking ceremony for the new Faith Christian School expansion was held behind Faith Lutheran Church in early May, 2021. Pastor Paul Larson can be seen at the far right, reading a passage from the Bible in celebration. The school has been operating out of temporary classrooms since its inception in 1997; this will be its first permanent home. (Submitted Photo)
A groundbreaking ceremony for the new Faith Christian School expansion was held behind Faith Lutheran Church in early May, 2021. Pastor Paul Larson can be seen at the far right, reading a passage from the Bible in celebration. The school has been operating out of temporary classrooms since its inception in 1997; this will be its first permanent home. (Submitted Photo)

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“We’re very blessed,” said Joyce Duffney, who’s been chairman of the Faith Christian School Board for the past three years. “We are excited about this building.”

Duffney said planning for the new facility began about three years ago, and after a couple years of fundraising, “we just felt it was time” to get started on the construction.

The church has held large garage sales (they call them “Treasure Sales”), special dinners and other events to drum up financial support for the project. There will be another Treasure Sale this fall, and additional fundraisers in the future, as construction costs have risen considerably over the past year and created a need for additional funding.

Larson said the church has already raised $400,000 for the school, and is looking to raise another $150,000-$200,000.

“A lot of businesses in the community have stepped up and donated money or materials or time -- some of them all three,” said Larson. “We really appreciate the local businesses that have been kicking in to help with donations, including donations of labor and material.”

Church members, parents and other relatives and friends of the school and its families have also chipped in, either out of their own pocketbooks or by helping out at fundraising events.

A local contractor, David Hestekin, who owns All-American Seamless Gutters in Detroit Lakes, is heading up construction.

Roughly 40 students are currently enrolled at the K-8 school for the 2021-2022 school year, and the new preschool program will be open to kids ages 33 months to 5 years. School leaders are working with families to determine the best schedule for the preschool, Larson said -- it could be offered every day, every-other-day, or other options, depending on parent needs. A new preschool teacher will be hired to run the classroom; Duffney said they’re seeking someone with a degree in early childhood education.

“We’re hoping to get between eight and 10 children (in the preschool program),” she said. “We just feel that it’s such an important area, because it’s a feeder into our school. … The parents have been inquiring with us about it, and have been asking for it -- there’s a need. This year more than ever, it seems, we have more parents of children of that age who would be eligible.”

Church leaders are hoping to have most of the construction complete by this fall, in time for kids to be using the new classrooms at the start of the upcoming school year.

“We feel very blessed that the Lord has given us the opportunity to have this Christian school in this community,” Larson said. “He’s provided for us all these years -- we’re celebrating 25 years this year -- and we’re looking forward to the future, to see what He has in store for us.”