September 4, 2000
Dear Alumni, Former Staff and Friends,
I have been associated with Christiansen Academy for twenty-three years as teacher, parent, coach, dormparent, and administrator, and Roxy and I have come to love CA and everyone associated with this very unique community. I never cease to be amazed at the breadth of the impact that this tiny (by public school standards) school has had on Venezuela and on the world to say nothing of the hundreds of lives that have been shaped and developed within and without our fences here in Rubio. The Lord truly has been good to us!
That said, the decision to close Christiansen Academy in June, 2001, after forty-nine years of service to the missionary and expatriate communities was a very traumatic, but carefully considered conclusion. When the decision was made in February, we realized that it would be very emotional and that it would have far-reaching implications to people not only in Rubio, but, literally, to people around the world. An explanation of this decision and its ramifications is certainly in order as we begin our final year of classes. One of our goals is to finish well! A part of that goal is to involve each of you--- each of you who have been an integral part of CA---too, in the completion and in the "celebration" of all that our Lord has done through the people of Christiansen Academy for all of these years.
Looking at a 2000-2001 enrollment of 52 students, the School Board and the Administration conducted a survey of the mission and non-mission constituencies to determine whether our declining enrollment in recent years has been just a temporary "dip" in MK's or if the decline reflected a long-term situation. On February 18, 2000, the School Board and the Administration came together armed with the results of the surveys to discuss the long-term direction of our beloved institution.
Before I go on, I think it is significant to note who the people were who wrestled with the very emotional task of deciding the future of CA lest you think the decision was made by a group of non-connected, dispassionate people.
Roger Luce has invested 21 years of faithful service to CA. His two sons grew up in Rubio and graduated from CA. Roger continues to be committed to MK education and, in fact, is completing his doctorate in this field. He fully expected to use his soon-to-be- earned PhD serving the MK's at CA.
Jim Rathbun, in his 13 years of service here at CA has been a teacher and an administrator. An MK himself, Jim was particularly noted for his striving for excellence in the curriculum and in the entire academic program.
Andy Anderson was a boarding student at CA for ten of his twelve pre-college years, and he and his three brothers graduated from this school. Now, returning with his family to the school of his youth, Andy has served thirteen more years as a dedicated staff member. He even met his wife, the former Ruth Gotaas, when both were single teachers here and they are nurturing their own family here in Rubio.
Sandy Hanna's two oldest children graduated from CA three years ago and last year respectively and she has another daughter presently in 11th grade. Serving on the School Board for seven years, she has demonstrated a love for CA and an appreciation for what it has done for her family.
Kellie Moeller's missionary career began at CA thirteen years ago when she and her husband came to Venezuela and Rubio to be dormparents for a multitude of senior boys. JT was a two year old and Brenden was a newborn when they arrived at the dorm! They served at CA for three and one-half years before going into church planting, but her two sons are now boarding students at CA.
Lois Belch's parents founded Christiansen Academy in 1952 so that their children and the children of their co-workers would be able to receive a good education. Lois and her 5 siblings were raised in Venezuela and all six graduated from CA! She returned after college to work as a staff member for 21 years, marrying her husband, Dave, during that time. Their oldest, Michael, just graduated, but Jordana and Bradley are currently dorm students in Rubio.
Karen Wrobbel, currently TEAM's coordinator of MK education world-wide, came to Venezuela and Christiansen Academy 17 years ago and spent one year in Rubio before moving to Spain to start and develop the MK school there.
I, Dave Schlonecker, have invested 23 years of my life and my family's life here at Christiansen Academy. Our three children were born and raised in Rubio, and spent their entire academic careers at CA.
So, why would this group of eight people even consider tampering with the status quo and the way things have always been and with the things we have all come to enjoy and appreciate? The reasons are many. Initially concerned about the security of our community in such close proximity to Colombia, we were declared "safe" by the Crisis Management group that visited Rubio in November 1999. So, while security is not currently a major factor in our considerations, Rubio's location close to the border does likely cause some concern for parents of potential students. The surveys that we did prior to our February, 2000, meeting did show us, however, that missionary location, numbers of missionaries currently in Venezuela, and the availability of other educational options were significant factors in indicating that there were relatively few new students preparing to attend CA in the next five years.
There has been a sharp rise in the number of missions targeting Caracas and the other "urban centers" of Valencia, Maracay, Barquisimeto, Puerto Ordaz, Puerto La Cruz, and Maturin (yes, Maturin!). That targeting, of course, has led missions to assign their personnel (and children) to those centers, moving missionaries from the traditional rural areas of the interior. Academia Cristiana Internacional de Caracas grew out of this demand and now offers a full program to over 100 students in grades K-12. TEAM-Venzezuela signed onto ACIC as a cooperating, founding mission. Many of the other cities with missionary and expatriate concentrations also offer other educational alternatives that allow their students to live at home and attend a good international school. In addition, Colombia, which for years hosted many missionaries who sent their children to CA, has seen a general decline of missionaries, especially those outside Bogota, and also has formed a very fine MK school, Camino Academy in the capital.
For sheer numbers, our surveys at the time showed a potential enrollment for 2000-2001 of 46 to 52 students. We have 52 students now, in September. Responses to our questionnaires indicated fewer than five new students in the foreseeable future, and the fourteen students expecting to graduate in June, 2001, would further deplete the student body. Of the 71 non-CA students represented in our constituent survey, only three new students were considering boarding school, primarily because there were other, closer options available. We believe that this reflects a growing and understandable trend in Latin America as local educational options become more accessible. For some time we had thought that the declining enrollment was only a gap between generations of missionaries, we now see that the enrollment decline is, indeed, a long-term trend.
You know very well that CA's distinctive has always been its well-rounded program of academics, athletics, outreach, social life, musical and community. We believe that a decreased enrollment to the degree that we are experiencing would jeopardize our ability to continue to offer the curricular and the extra-curricular activity that we have come to expect.
In the last eight years, CA has experienced a steady decline, too, in long-term/career staff and relatively few career replacements, reflecting what seems to also be a global trend in missions. Our competent short-term staff has provided invaluable service over the years, but the school needs to depend on a core of long-term missionaries who have experience in both the culture and the Spanish language in order to maintain the school's continuity. Some long-term staff who have served faithfully at CA for years have recently felt the Lord's call to other ministries, independent of CA's impending closure. Others are simply reaching the end of their time of service at Christiansen Academy. While this is not a primary consideration given God's clearly demonstrated ability to provide staff, we feel it is a factor.
The Board has considered the effects that closing the school will have on current students who will not be able to graduate from CA and on those who do not live in the previously mentioned urban centers. With that in mind, the Board and the Field Council of TEAM-Venezuela is moving toward creating a "hostel" in Caracas where TEAM students can reside while attending school there.
So, after 49 years of faithful service to the mission community in northern South America and the Caribbean, we regretfully have decided to close our doors with the June 2, 2001, graduation exercises. During these last 48 years, many, many young people have come to this little Andean town, Rubio, and have received a superb, quality education that has served as a stepping-stone to successful careers around the world. Chistiansen Academy alumni literally span the globe, using the educational foundation gained at CA to impact the world. More importantly, many, many young people experienced Jesus Christ in Rubio, learning the Christian life in the classroom as well as through the lives of the staff and their student peers. Significantly, one of CA's distinctives is now and has always been the opportunity to put our faith into practice---and CA is and always has been the training ground for hundreds of God's servants around the world. Christiansen Academy is friendships that last a lifetime!!!!! We are truly a community that spans 48 wonderful years!!!! That isn't going to stop just because we will no longer have buildings on Avenida Pulido Mendez in Rubio, Edo. Tachira!
David K. Schlonecker