From going on overnight camping trips to taking part in robotics club, students at Highland Adventist School in Elkins experience a range of hands-on learning opportunities in and out of the classroom.
The Christian school opened in 1988 with seven students and one teacher. Today, 25 years later, the school has 46 students in grades kindergarten through 12, a staff of nine teachers and a school building on 5 acres north of Elkins.
Principal Cheryl Jacko said the school moved to the new location in time for the 2007/08 school year, and it's a great spot because it is adjacent to the Allegheny Highlands Trail. Students often walk on the trail, and they also get lots of exercise by playing on the basketball or volleyball courts.
Cheryl Jacko, principal of Highland Adventist School, says she is excited about celebrating the school’s 25th anniversary this year. After starting in 1988 with seven students and one teacher, the school has grown to serve 46 students with nine teachers. (The Inter-Mountain photo by Beth Henry-Vance)
"Unless it's raining and cold, we think every kid needs fresh air every day," Jacko said, adding students are involved in a physical education program designed to keep them active all the time, not just for one sports season. Skiing trips and long-distance biking excursions, such as from Elkins to Durbin, also are offered by the school, along with swimming, canoeing and rock climbing.
"It's really fun - some of these kids have never done things like this before; some have never camped," Jacko said. "Our thought is, why not involve the kids in lifelong interests that keep them active?"
In addition to the variety of outdoor activities, she said the school offers art and music programs, regular educational field trips, community service training, Christian extracurricular activities and a safe, caring environment.
"The Christian part - that's what makes it such a special place," she said.
The school meets state requirements and is accredited through the National Council for Private School Accreditation and the Accrediting Association of Adventist Schools.
Jacko said the teachers enjoy preparing creative lessons for the students, who are in relatively small classes with a high rate of interaction.
One unique program being developed at H.A.S. will teach students how to start and run a greenhouse business, thanks to a $2,500 matching grant from the Tucker Community Foundation and collaboration with Davis & Elkins College's business department.
"We're pretty excited about it," Jacko said, explaining students will learn about business models as well as agriculture - and these types of skills can help them later in life.
She said H.A.S. students perform higher on achievement tests than the nationwide average, and nearly all students go on to attend college.
Because H.A.S. is a private school, financial planning and some limited scholarships are available.
"If you're interested (in enrolling your child), don't let the financial aspect hold you back," she said, adding the cost of tuition is cheaper than daycare.
For more information, anyone interested can call the school at 304-636-4274, visit the school's Facebook page or the school's website at www.highlandadventistschool.org.