Community Christian School is dedicated to its students, their education and their future, according to Margaret Shields, CCS dean of students.
The first priority for the school is having a quality curriculum.
"Every year we look at one area of curriculum, continuing the process of improving, always looking for ways to make things better," Shields said. "This past year happened to be our year for our Bible curriculum. That's a very important curriculum for our school, since we are a Christian school."
-Messenger photo by Brandon L. Summers
Brady Weller, Community Christian School teacher, goes over worksheets with her kindergarten class. CCS features small class sizes that allow for more individual instruction.
She added, "It's fun to see the students with their Bible open as they study and learn about the world around them, through that."
Testing is also important at CCS. Not only does the school excel at Iowa Assessments, Shields said, the school's students also take the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills reading inventory and math inventory.
"We look at our students at the beginning of the year, see where we have needs and throughout the year we're working on improving their scores and improving their abilities in those areas," she said. "There are many things that we do, just as all schools do. We're continually assessing."
Unique this year, CCS is doing a voluntary audit assessment with Prairie Lakes Area Education Agency.
"We weren't asked to do it, but we just felt like it would be a way for us to have another source look at us, try to find things we can grow on," Shields said. "In February, we'll have a meeting and kind of find out what they see as things we need to improve on."
Continual improvement has been standard at the school since it opened 35 years ago, on Jan. 19, 1978, Shields said.
"We want to be a school of excellence," she said. "Our first school administrator, that was his goal. That's something we keep striving for and continually work on and really want for our students, our kids. We want our kids to learn the best way they can, we want to meet each one's needs. That's why we're here. We're here for the kids."
Community Christian School is still pursuing a building independent of First Evangelical Free Church.
"That is something in the works, even right now," Shields said. "At this point in time we have a building we are looking at. We are doing studies as far as the feasibility of the building, trying to see if we can get more community support."
As it does every year, the Christian school completed a missions project in 2012.
"This last year we had a missions project that was amazing when you consider the size of our school and what we accomplished," Shields said. "We decided we were going to help pay for a well in India, because when we studied the world we see that there's a lot of places in the world where they don't have clean water. Children don't get to go to school because they have to trek all day to go get water. People get sick because of bad water."
The school's students, grades kindergarten through eight, raised $4,000 by selling bottles of water at its concerts and through other efforts. The money was used to help dig a well in Belseri, India, that will last for 10 to 12 years, Shields said.
This year, for its mission project, CCS is helping a family that works with Teen Challenge International, Shields said.
"They've gone to China, and they're working with youth there," she said. "We are raising money for them to buy two bicycles, a guitar, a motorized scooter and a drum set for their ministry."
The students aren't the only ones helping in these efforts. The staff has their heart in the projects, as well.
"Mark Nemechek (sixth-grade teacher) has been doing a few extra things for us," Shields said. "He puts on this one-act play, a Bible play, in different churches and whenever the church gives him an honorarium, he puts it in our offering as well."
CCS continues to add new technology to aid in its students' education.
"We've got the new computer lab, which was donated by a (local) business this last fall," Shields said. "It's portable and we have 15 computers that can go from room to room. They are used every single day. I see the cart going up and down the hall."
She added, "It's really exciting to see even our little kindergartners be able to open their computers, get them turned on, know what site they're going to."
Shields said 2013 will be a great year for the Christian school.
"We've had a good start for this year," she said. "And then with the excitement we have for the different things happening this year, I see the finish of this year and the beginning of next year with the possibility of a new building, we're going to do some new things."
Shields hopes this year CCS will no longer be "the best-kept secret in Fort Dodge."
"We are in the process of trying to make the community more aware of us," she said. "By moving to a building, that may make a difference. We're going to go out there and let people know we are here, and we are a great school. We have wonderful academics. We are a school that has nice class sizes. We keep our class sizes small so teachers can give more attention to each student. The teachers, the staff I have, they give 110 percent every day, they work so hard, because they care about each individual student."