Chattanooga Christian School, then named Lookout Mountain Christian School, opened its doors in September 1970 with a student body of 23, a full-time principal, a generous, hospitable church, a board of trustees with a lot of vision, and a small group of parents desiring a truly Christ-centered, biblically integrated education who were willing to work hard to make the vision become a reality.
That first year ended with the same small student body of 7–12 graders, but the vision of the parents in the school association and the dedicated members of the board of trustees kept the young organization alive. Two full-time teachers joined the staff for the second year of operation. Middle and high school students, along with the direction of their principal and teachers, worked to build a school life with the same enthusiasm which might characterize a much larger school.
Dr. Jack Fennema gave direction and spirit to the school in its first two years, and later in the school’s history he returned for another two years as principal following the tenure of Joel Belz. Growing slowly, the school continued to include the upper grades in various locations on Lookout Mountain under the able leadership of Fennema, Belz, and a third principal, Sam DeHaan. During the first decade, the instructional program was part of an electronic network incorporating Christian schools as far away as New Jersey and Iowa. Students were instructed by off-campus teachers through headphones at study terminals and participated in remote discussions with other students and teachers. Because each participating school provided several teachers for the network, students in each school also had “live” instruction in some subjects with their own school.
Four years after beginning, CCS graduated its first class, the class of 1974, and like the classes that followed, all the original graduates attended college. As more and more families became involved with the school, CCS left the network and provided its own quality faculty for on-site instruction and began to consider the demand to add elementary grades.
In the fall of 1978, CCS opened its elementary division on Lookout Mountain and the following year added a 6th grade to make the school a complete K–12 program. For a brief time, CCS also offered a pre-school program called “The Nurture Center” for students from ages 2 to 5, but closed that branch in 1984. Dr. Bruce Hekman served as principal during those intervening years and directed the school’s curriculum, faculty, and student body. Don Holwerda followed Hekman in 1981 and began nearly three decades of growth and expansion which moved the school from rented space to its own campus and increased enrollment to over 1,000 students. Additionally, during this time the school established balanced budgets, led capital expansions, and began the school endowments.
Consolidation to One Campus
The CCS vision expanded in 1982–1983 with the dramatic move from Lookout Mountain to a permanent location on the Broad Street campus (now Charger Drive). This was a step of faith and total dependence on God. Feeder elementary schools were established on Lookout Mountain, on Signal Mountain, and in Hixson. All these locations found excellent cooperation with hosting churches, but in 1988 all grades were consolidated on the Broad Street campus making the school a K–12 institution with one location.
Between the years of 1982 and 2008, construction was a common sight on the campus. Nearly every year a new project was begun to add or expand classrooms. In the 1980s the industrial and practical arts building, the middle school, and varsity gym were built. The 1990s brought the media center; the elementary, varsity gym, and middle school expansions; the fine arts performance center and gallery; the high school practice gym; and additional classrooms. In 2002, the lunch pavilion was added, and in 2003–2004 the high school was again expanded, adding classrooms, vocal music space, and the art and dance studios. In addition to buildings, the school expanded its course offerings and added property (which then amounted to over 50 acres) for playgrounds, athletic fields, tennis courts, recreation areas, baseball and softball diamonds, lighted soccer and football fields, a lighted track and field complex, and a cross country course.
In 2009 Chad Dirkse was named school President. The campus continued to expand with the purchase of an additional 17 acres and 40,000 square feet of warehouse facility across 33rd street from current campus. Planning for the use of the additional acreage and facilities continues. Since 2010 renovations have been made to the academic space in the upper and lower schools as well as the varsity and high school gymnasiums. In the fall of 2013 David Stanton Field was re-opened as a multiple use stadium holding more than 3,500 spectators. The start of the 2014–2015 is highlighted by the reintroduction of a preschool program, the construction of a new playground that will be used for many years to come by our Pre-K–5th grade students and the addition of new strength and conditioning facility. This facility is designed to accommodate lifetime fitness-oriented physical education, and it is equipped with full locker rooms, shower facilities, public restrooms, a large stadium seating classroom, coaches offices, and a full-service concession stand.
Since 1970, the sustaining force behind the core quality of Chattanooga Christian School has been its committed faculty and staff. From the early days of the school, when 2 full-time faculty led a small group of students, to the present day, when more than 100 faculty lead almost 1,200 students, God’s faithfulness has been most evident in the people he has called here to teach and disciple its students. Through their sacrificial efforts came the development of a comprehensive, biblically-integrated, Christ-centered curriculum and extraordinary curricular and co-curricular programs. Nowhere has the strength of the school been more historically evident than in the quality of relationships that are developed between the teachers and students.
In 45 years, the growth and change at CCS has been a clear testimony to God’s faithfulness and the sacrificial commitments of parents, students, faculty, staff, administration, the board, and countless CCS supporters.
The richness of our history gives us great hope for the future!