On the northern edge of Louisville is a campus of five educational buildings, two chapels, and a handful of accessory buildings and hangars that make up Full Armor Christian Academy, a private school that provides “Christ-centered education” to families across the country. South. and central Illinois.
The school, which has 180 students from kindergarten to high school, is located on a hill on the outskirts of town.
Enrollment is up 30 students compared to last year. Cindy Bailey, the school’s executive director, attributes this to families enjoying the school’s less restrictive rules regarding COVID-19.
The campus is often active, with students walking between buildings or playing outside.
“We have 13 acres here so there’s a lot of room to play,” Bailey said. She pointed to the greenhouse used by the school’s Future Farmers of America program and the building that houses the school’s CrossFit gymnasium.
When not ‘playing’, students can be found in classrooms, learning things taught in any school – like reading, writing, math, and history. School art teacher Rindy Ricketts was happy to point out that at Full Armor they try to teach beyond the basics.
“It’s not just the time for crafts,” Ricketts said. “We are learning art history and STEAM.”
Bailey says being a private school gives teachers the freedom to experiment with different ways of teaching. Some classrooms have standing desks. Some have “swing chairs,” which allow students who have difficulty sitting to move around in a flexible chair without distracting other students.
“It’s about the freedom to find what works,” Bailey said.
The school has around 20 staff members, many of whom appreciate the freedom the school gives them.
“We have a lot of team teaching here,” said Leighn Fredereick, teacher at Full Armor. “I can go to Miss Felicia and say ‘we’re doing an experiment, can you watch the class?’ We are flexible that way.
Full Armor has a teacher-to-student ratio of around 1:15 at the elementary level, with fewer teachers per student at the secondary and secondary levels. Schools in North Clay County, the local school district, have a teacher-to-student ratio of 12.97, according to federal government data.
Full Armor Christian Academy opened in fall 2016, with just over 80 students, but the Bailey family has been involved in education for years.
Cindy’s husband Darren is a state senator running for governor. This fact is hard to forget at Full Armor, as their field bus is parked in the parking lot when it is not on the trail. Darren Bailey, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Full Armor, has made education a hallmark of its electoral history. He served on the North Clay County School Board for almost 20 years before joining the Legislative Assembly, where he served on the House and Senate education committees.
Cindy Bailey gave two reasons when asked why her family started school. The first is that his youngest son, Mason, wanted to be homeschooled so he could have more time to work on the family farm. Over time, other families joined the Bailey children and the idea of opening a school came naturally from there.
But she did not shrink from the other reason that interested her in founding the school: to evade government regulations.
“I just think that in 2020, even in 2016 when we started, they saw what was required and mandated,” said Cindy Bailey, referring to the teachers and parents who got involved in Full Armor very early on.
“This is the government’s overbreadth in what education should look like,” she said.
Full Armor is not registered or recognized, which is a voluntary designation from the state board of education that private schools can enroll in. Recognition is required for schools to participate in certain statewide grant programs and associations.
Although some college and post-secondary training programs require students to attend a recognized private school, Bailey says students have joined the military and attended private and public colleges.
The school’s conservative ethic extends to several other administrative choices, such as security. At the main entrances to the campus there are signs that read: “Heavily armed and trained personnel. Any attempt to harm children will be met with lethal force. “
“We have guns all over campus,” Bailey said. “Our parents all know it. “
Firearms are kept in locked safes and are usually not taken out. They are there for emergencies.
Full Armor uses a Christian program popular with private schools and home education families from BJU Press, an associate academic editor at Bob Jones University in South Carolina.
BJU Press’s program is rooted in Christian ideology and takes a fundamental Christian approach to topics such as evolution, history, and social topics.
The BJU Press website describes their biology program thus: “When studying subjects such as creation and evolution, human cloning, abortion, and stem cell research, students refer to the scriptures. as ultimate authority and are encouraged to develop a biblical perspective on it. subjects. “
“One thing that is particularly close to my heart is the apologies and the ability of our students to give answers about what they believe and why,” Bailey said.
For teachers and families at Full Armor, incorporating Christian teachings into daily lessons is a big part of why they’re there.
“We create art to celebrate our ultimate creator,” said Ricketts, the school’s art teacher.
Andrea Moorman is a member of the school’s parent-teacher organization, Families of Full Armor. Moorman has two children, one in first grade at Full Armor and the other is getting ready to go to kindergarten this fall.
“My husband was brought up in a private school, so he’s very passionate about it. I have been a Christian all my life, ”she said.
Moorman, who has a few public school teachers in her family, initially faced some setback for sending her daughter to a private school, but says the choice has paid off.
“What surprised me the most is the way older kids treat younger ones,” Moorman said. “There are so many girls who are amazingly good to my daughter.”
“It’s such a big part of the community,” Moorman said.
And Full Armor is expanding to new communities.
Full Armor opened a second campus this year in Olney, with 80 students, almost double the number of last year, with 95% of families choosing to stay after the first year. The Olney campus is overseen by Abie Shelton, Bailey’s daughter.