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Growing an Adventist School in a Shrinking Market

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Many North American Seventh-day Adventist schools are facing decreased enrollment due to a variety of factors: a shrinking Adventist or non-Adventist population in the area, Adventist families choosing other Christian or public schools, or the perceived financial cost of Adventist education.

At Avalon Adventist Junior Academy, located on the northern tip of Vancouver Island (British Columbia), we have been fighting the trend of decreased enrollment by putting the school in the hands of God, having a strong Adventist Christian staff, and focusing on a rigorous academic program.

Avalon has seen the hand of God upon our school. For example, Christian parents from other churches are our best advocates.

Most of our student increase results from parent satisfaction with our program. All parents know that we are a Seventh-day Adventist school, and Adventism permeates our curriculum, extra-curricular activities, and staff.

Avalon is fortunate to have strong pastor support. Both local pastors, George Hilton and Randy Elliott, are visible in our school and participate regularly in assemblies and other school activities. Prayer and worship are intrinsic components as we place Avalon’s mission and operation in His hands.

God has also provided Avalon with the staff necessary for school growth. Since 2010 Avalon has wanted to start a pre-school program. No Adventists were available to start it, but through God’s working Avalon did get a master pre-school teacher, Teresa Heare.

In addition, Michele Jackson turned down a teaching job in a large city to work in Avalon, and pre-registration for 2014-15 kindergarten is already at 12. Both strong programs allow the school a firm foundation for building a vibrant school.

Last summer we suddenly were without a teacher, and the Lord provided Cyndi Walper, just the math teacher we were praying for. With new enrolment Avalon needed an aide. Again God provided. Eric Anderson, a theology and outdoor pursuits graduate of CaUC, was available to work at Avalon.

Avalon’s staff has focused strongly on academics.

With the addition of Ms. Walper and added curriculum aids, our math program has strengthened. We use BC Conference-recommended resources like 6-Trait Writing to improve our students’ writing skills.

Avalon offers French to all students from kindergarten through grade 9.

In addition to teaching French, Dr. Julia Fall-Wood teaches Spanish to grades 8 & 9. When attempting to increase school enrolment, it is important to focus on strengths while improving weak areas. We must put the school in God’s hands and be willing to change traditional school culture.

Only with strongly committed staff and pastoral support can a school thrive. Finally, teachers and staff must be mission-minded and self-sacrificing to grow a school. In 2010, Avalon had 44 students.

Today, Avalon has 63 K-9 students, plus 9 pre-K students.

We can only thank God for His continued blessings and pray that AAJA will continue to provide the spiritual, intellectual, and physical program that grows children for His kingdom.

By Cliff Wood, principal, Avalon Adventist Junior Academy

Kindergarten class leading a song.
Kindergarten class leading a song.

 Rylie, a K student, reads to a local Port Hardy senior citizen.


 AAJA students gathered food for the Harvest Food Bank in Port Hardy.


Cyndi Walper (third from left) was honored as AAJA's Staff Member of the Month.

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