A Starboard Christian teacher guides students through their class work at the school's campus at Westport Baptist Church. 

DENVER – Starboard Christian Academy recently wrapped up its first year of operation.

It marked a milestone for co-founders Abby Keener and Jennie Stahler, mothers who embarked on their mission to provide an alternative model of schooling in their community in 2016.

“The goal of this school is to incorporate family back into the center of our kids’ lives,” Stahler said. “We want God at the core, and we want families to feel as though they have leadership value within their home, whereas when you’re in a traditional school with all the sports and other activities, you really lose focus and that quality time with your children.”

Starboard, which is housed on the campus of Westport Baptist Church, operates under the University Model of schooling, which is slowly becoming more common across the country. The University Model schedule differs from traditional schooling in that students are only in classrooms on campus three days a week, with the remaining two days spent at home, where parents guide their children through lesson plans prepared by the teachers.

“Basically, the main campus days on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday look very similar to traditional schooling because we have professional teachers in the classrooms covering all the subjects,” Keener said. “On Tuesday nights, parents log onto the class management software we use, pull up their child’s profile and print out the handouts for the lesson they’ll do with their child on Wednesday. It looks different for every family, but we encourage the parents to designate an area for schooling in their homes.”

The model has been a hit among parents, who like Stahler and Keener wanted to recoup some of the time lost while their children were in school five days a week.

“My husband works in NASCAR, so we were looking for a school that was three days a week and two days at home because he’s gone a lot,” parent Michele Lunders said. “It was all about having more family time together.”

“My wife and I, first and foremost, wanted a Christ-centered foundation at the school,” parent Mike Assell added. “We understand that foundation starts in the home first, of course, so we liked the homeschooling aspect of Starboard. With our busy lives, full-time homeschooling wasn’t feasible, so this model has been perfect for us.”

While the school year just ended, Stahler and Keener are already planning for year two, when Starboard will expand to include third grade after offering kindergarten through second grade in its inaugural year. Annual tuition is $4,750, which can be paid in full, bi-annually or in monthly installments.

“Our end goal is to become a full-fledged K-12 school with all the trimmings that come with that like sports and theatre programs, God willing,” Stahler said. “All we can do right now is take it year-by-year and let God’s plan develop because, quite frankly, it’s hard to even fathom reaching that point right now.”

“We had 14 students this year and our goal for next year is to double that number,” Keener added. “Kindergarten and first grade will be downstairs, and then we’ll move our first and second graders from this year up together as a combined second and third grade class.”

Stahler and Keener will also spend the summer making tweaks to the curriculum.

“Our goal as a school for our elementary students is to offer more of a unit-style setup,” Stahler said. “Hope Academy, a school that we love over in Concord, operates with four or five units per year. We’d like to do something similar because we want it to be more about the depth of learning. We want to focus on certain topics and dive deeply into them, whereas a lot of social studies textbooks, for example, skip from one war to the next and students just learn about everything at its surface.”

Starboard wrapped its inaugural year with an awards ceremony for students, which ended with a video recapping the school year.

“I don’t feel like pride is the right word to describe how I felt during that ceremony because it’s more of a just a ‘wow’ factor of sitting back and looking at what God has done for us,” Stahler said.

“The sweetest part for me was to see our students up on the stage with their teacher’s arm around them as that teacher explained in detail why that child exemplified a specific trait,” Keener added. “It’s just so special how intimately our teachers know each child, and I think the parents feel that way as well.”

Ten students have been registered for next year’s kindergarten class, and the school is accepting applications for the higher grades as well.


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