A new independent Christian high school with offices in Santa Monica is seeking a site on the Westside and hopes to open in the fall.

Officials of Pacifica Christian High School say their new school will be devoted to teaching students to think critically and wisely about the world around them.

Plans are for Pacifica Christian High to include students of all faiths and have 80 to 100 ninth-grade students.

The tenth grade will be added next year and the school will eventually have between 400 and 500 students in ninth to 12th grades, according to Jim Knight, head of the school.

“This is a school for everyone, not only the elite or the disadvantaged,” Knight says.

“There’s a need for a very good private school with top-notch academics where students can be encouraged in faith.”

He says the school will be designed to motivate students to be excellent in their crafts but also strong in faith and to bring their faith to their work when appropriate.

“We want kids to go into the community and be good scientists and be good people, and a person’s faith encourages that.”

Kent Crawford, pastor of Westside Christian Fellowship, dreamed of starting the school about 15 years ago. Three years ago, educators in the church were talking about education and discussing Richard Riesen’s book Piety and Philosophy.

Riesen’s philosophy of education resonated with the group and inspired its members to take action and begin laying out plans for the school.

Part of Crawford’s vision came from his exposure to education through his students.

“It was galvanized by my daughter coming home and saying her school didn’t feel like a good place,” Crawford says.

He says his daughter’s experience was largely positive and she got a good education, but she had come from a nurturing school and when she got into high school she didn’t find that.

“We want to provide a place where the staff, kids and teachers move in the same way together,” Crawford says. “We have educators who really care about the kids and are passionate about their field of study.”

The school will offer a rigorous college preparatory academic program in science, mathematics, literature, history, language and theology, administrators say.

The school athletic program will encourage discipline, excellence, sportsmanship, leadership and teamwork in such sports as cross country, soccer, basketball, tennis, volleyball, with additional sports added each year, administrators claim.

The school will also have a strong arts program offering classes in filmmaking, visual art, drama, dance and music, Knight says.

Ten years ago Knight founded the Academy of Visual and Performing Arts at Culver City High School and was able to bring the community and students together by utilizing resources in the community.

For example, by working with Sony Pictures, the students and the company worked together and students were allowed to use Sony equipment.

Students also worked on a play with the Center Theatre Group, a part of the Los Angeles County Music Center, where half of the cast and crew were from the high school and half were from the theater.

Knight says he’s excited about filmmaking that marries faith and arts and about teaching the entire process of film from writing, production and editing to marketing, including a film festival.

“Schools have small aspects of filmmaking but we hope to take the lead in this area.”

Pacifica Christian High plans to keep the school and class sizes small.

“With a smaller environment there’s more personalized help and it’s better for kids who are struggling, as there’s less time between when a child is struggling and when someone realizes it,” Crawford says.

Joan Crawford, dean of students and Kent’s wife, has been teaching math at the middle and high school levels for 14 years.

She says she’s looking forward to supporting, challenging and encouraging the kids in their character in an atmosphere of Christian environment, where students are cared for as a whole person.

“I’m excited about the teachers we’ve hired because they exemplify these things,” she said.

She says that Pacifica Christian High School’s goal is to give students a substantial liberal arts education in an atmosphere where students can thrive and get guidance as they go through adolescence, which can be a difficult time for students.

The school also plans to have weekend class retreats, trips to the East Coast and Europe and mission trips, according to Knight.

“We’re hiring good people and our tag line — teaching students to think and live well — is what we’re after,” Kent Crawford says.

Pacifica Christian High early admission deadline for students is Sunday, May 15th.

To celebrate the school opening, application fees have been waived. Those seeking financial assistance can apply online.

Information: (310) 828-7015 or www.pacificachristian.org

Julie Kirst can be reached at jkmailtalk@yahoo.com

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