This past school year was Hayden Ikert’s favourite. He said his Grade 10 year at Cornerstone Christian School was different.
“It had more of a community,” he said. “We were closer than we were … and I feel like it was all rooted in the right things.”
Ikert described the private school as a family.
Education committee chair and part-time Grade 1/2 teacher Wilma Kooistra said she saw kids crying on the last day of school — something she’d never had before.
“It just felt like it was much more of a tight-knit community,” she said.
And as much as Ikert enjoyed the year and is excited to return, he’s also enthused to have finished school nearly two weeks ago.
Cornerstone added 15 minutes onto their school days, which allowed them to close the year two weeks early. Students still received the same amount of learning, as per regulations.
But before they could teach anyone, Kooistra said a lot of work went into getting the school ready.
It was around this time last year that someone encouraged Cornerstone’s secretary Diane Veldhuisen in saying, “If this is God’s will, it’s gonna go.”
“And that’s just rung in my ears,” she said.
That sparked courage moving forward, but there was still a mountain ahead of them.
“We didn’t even know what we needed,” said Kooistra. “It was one miracle after another.”
Cornerstone already had some things mostly in order like a building and a solid staff core, but it was the community and constituents who helped the school find life.
“It never would have been possible,” said Cornerstone Christian School Board chair Jason McQuaker, who estimates about 70 per cent of constituents chipped in to help.
He said a lot of people came together, putting in a lot of effort in a short amount of time.
“It was just such a beautiful picture of the body of Christ,” said Kooistra.
Veldhuisen said a lot of very talented, knowledgeable people stepped up to support however they could.
“People just rallied,” she said. “And that’s what we needed.”
“There were a lot of nervous moments, but most of them were followed up with good things happening,” said McQuaker.
“None of this could have happened without God,” said Kooistra, who said her expectations were well exceeded. “It’s pretty incredible.”
Now, Cornerstone has finished its inaugural year, and can exhale when looking back on the year that was.
“We had a great year,” said McQuaker. “It’s nothing we’re doing, it’s what God’s doing.”
Veldhuisen said there was a lot of learning over the last number of months.
“Everything was a first,” said Kooistra.
And though there was speculation as to what behaviour may look like with no administration in the office, Kooistra said she rarely had to have talks with her students.
She said she enjoyed watching kids interact in their buddy groups, where high school students would connect with younger grades.
Veldhuisen said it was also nice that the students could learn to work together by doing positive things in and around Emo.
“We’re here to serve the community,” said Kooistra.
And the support was reciprocal — key annual fundraisers like the corn maze, pie day, spring tea, and spring concert were all successful in helping the school financially.
Looking at how far the school has come in such a short time, Veldhuisen was simply blown away.
“I keep shaking my head,” she said.
Kooistra remembers meeting with the head of the finance committee, Reta Dykstra, who looked at her and asked “Do you think we could get 30 to 40 kids?”
This past year, Cornerstone far exceeded that number with 107 students.
McQuaker said many people outside the school have been starting to inquire.
“There’s a lot of momentum just starting on that front,” he said. “I personally expect that to grow a fair amount.”
Kooistra said a lot of homeschool families have been interested in the alternative that Cornerstone Christian School offers.
For this coming school year, Veldhuisen said registration numbers are around 120.
“It’s gonna be really cool to see this family grow,” said Ikert. “I’m excited.”