STAFF/LAWRENCE BUDD
Photo: Lawrence Budd
Photo: Lawrence Budd

Christian school begun in Springboro returning to Warren County

The CHESS Christian School plans to make $2.5 million in renovations to the former Ridgeville Christian School and open the school year there in August, school officials said last week.

“It does have all the wonderful history. We’re hoping to make it come alive again,” said Tarah Lee, executive director of the school, located for the past three years in the Morningstar Baptist Church in Washington Twp., Montgomery County.

Ridgeville Christian closed in May 2007, and the property, also including church facilities, was put up for sale in July 2007.

The history dates back to 1957, when Ridgeville Community Church was formed. A preschool was opened in 1969. Over the next 30 years, the school operation - the church’s main mission - was expanded.

From 1988 until closing, it was a pre-kindergarten through 12th grade school, serving close to 600 students from as many as 80 churches, according to school officials.

Church leaders said they decided in 1999-2000 to mortgage the property to finance a $2.2 million expansion of the high school. After prospering, enrollment dropped in the last few years, leading up to a board vote to close, according to church leaders.

In 2016, the property was purchased by Origins Church, based in West Chester Twp., Butler County, and operated as a second place of worship, according to the Origins website.

Origins officials could not be reached for comment.

CHESS began in 2014 as the Christian Hybrid Educational Support School in the Clearcreek Christian Assembly Church, now known as NewSpring Church, in Springboro, Lee said last week during an interview at the Ridgeville facilities.

The school moved into the church on Ohi0 741, just north of the public school complex, through the Lee family’s relationship with Springboro City Councilman Bruce Moore and his wife, Carol, who replaced him on the city council after his death in 2016.

“Bruce said he always wanted a school in his church,” Lee recalled.

Grown to 62 students by the end of the first year, the school moved to the church on Nutt Road outside Centerville.

There was a niche for families involved in home schooling looking for a part-time school program that wasn’t being supported, said Lee, a Springboro resident.

Currently, 225 students from 2-year-olds through 12th graders study with about 40 teachers at CHESS, according to Hannah Kempe, enrollment specialist at the school.

“Everybody’s part-time,” Lee said.

The school meets Monday through Thursday and offers a “customizable” curriculum, ranging from science, math, history, and language to Bible, fencing, archery, dance and martial arts.

The school is fund-raising and plans to close on the purchase in March and open in Ridgeville in late August, Lee said.

The reopening would have unique significance for Beth Mattocks, who taught at Ridgeville and now teaches at CHESS, including students whose parents she taught at Ridgeville.

“I’m excited to see that property used again to educate students to get to know Jesus and learn the things they’ll need to know to have a successful life,” she said.

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