Jupiter Christian School opened its east campus just in time for the first day of school Wednesday morning, realizing a dream to expand its programming with room to grow.
Parents and the 210 enrolled students ranging from PK2, or 2-year-old pre-kindergartners, to first grade were greeted with a small red carpet and an archway lined with red, black and white balloons ready for the perfect back-to-school snapshot. The 0.4-acre property at 125 S. Pennock Lane, about a mile northeast of the main campus, has a maximum capacity for 325 students.
This is the first time JCS is offering a class for 2-year-olds. The new space allows the school to have more classes for 3- and 4-year-olds as well as kindergartners and first-graders at the new campus, where Jupiter Academy formerly sat.
Jupiter Academy closed in June 2016 after more than 35 years. The school couldn’t negotiate a new lease because the landlord wanted to find “more competitive and profitable offers for the site” and the closing affected nearly 100 families of students in pre-school through eighth grade.
The property sat untouched for two years until a “friend of JCS” acquired it in spring 2018 for $5.3 million, said JCS President Dan Stanfield. The school has a seven-year lease-to-own agreement with the new property owner, and the renovations cost just over $1 million.
“We needed to find ways to creatively expand,” he said. “This property was a no-brainer.”
Principal Lisa Chitty welcomed students and parents in the drop-off loop.
“We’re very thankful that we were able to get the project finished by the first day of school. God performed a miracle here, I can assure you that,” Chitty said.
Six-year-olds Makayla Reader and Jonah Varnadore, as well as Jackson Hastey, 7, were in charge of morning pledges.
Across the board, these first-graders said they were most excited for field trips. Makayla looked forward to a safari, while Jackson and Jonah both agreed the Legoland theme park would be their favorite.
“It’s going to be my first time there,” Jonah said.
“I went there when I was little,” Jackson added.
In Doris Russell’s PK4 class, the theme was “Bon Voyage.” Students sported white sailor hats with their names written in red. After the morning announcements, some played with toy animals while others played house with a kitchen set.
For Russell, her biggest goal was to “make sure they feel safe and happy.”
Stanfield said he was glad the school could take the abandoned property with “longstanding, rich heritage” and be able to give back to Jupiter.
“It’s a joy to us to revitalize (the campus) and be able to bring it back to serve the community,” Stanfield said.