Construction on a multi-million dollar school campus is in full swing in Owasso.
Rejoice Christian School is consolidating, which means its elementary and high school will be on the same campus for the first time, and in brand new buildings.
Both buildings are still in the construction phase. Neither will be complete by the start of school on Aug. 20, but the elementary school will be very close.
The paint hasn't dried yet and there's plenty of work to be done, but it doesn't have to be finished for parents like Lori Callery to know what's in store.
“This is the first time I've seen it,” Callery said. “It's absolutely amazing. I can't wait for my kids to be in here and take advantage of this beautiful facility.”
The elementary school is for students pre-3 through fifth grade.
When complete, it will have secured entrances, state-of-the-art classrooms, science labs, art studios and even outdoor classroom areas.
Then there's the gym.
It is more than just a gym, though, it doubles as a storm shelter and every wall in the place is built with reinforced concrete a foot thick, and it should withstand an EF5 tornado. The same storm shelter design is being built at the high school next door.
Cyntergy Architecture Project Manager Craig Thilsted says the gym is FEMA compliant and will hold up again 250 mile per hour winds, something he says few Oklahoma schools have.
“Oklahoma has out of 1,800 school districts, only has 15 percent that has FEMA-rated storm shelters. From my research it looks like a lot of rural communities,” Thilsted said.
The entire project is a dream come true for superintendent Dr. Craig Shaw -- a dream that came to life with a $50 million donation.
"It was bigger than our wildest dreams that we were able to fund the project in one fell swoop and away we go," Shaw said. “The dream is not for the teachers, it's for the parents and the students.”
Rejoice has only grown since it was founded in 1992, then just a modest preschool and kindergarten with about 40 students. Since then, it has added grades all the way through high school.
"We're trying to limit our growth to about 100 students a year. We did 800 last year, we're gonna do 900 this year. I look to be 1,000 the next year," Shaw said.
"Our growth has been so rapid, we've put a limit on ourselves to not grow too fast because we don't want overwhelm our infrastructure, we don't want to overwhelm our student culture."
The school limits its classroom sizes to 18 students per class.
"That small classroom, student-teacher kind of environment, we think is good for education," said Shaw.
There’s currently a waiting list to get into the school, the small classroom experience is one of the selling points, the Christian-based education is the other.
“We are an unashamedly a Christian school and there are people that want their students in a Christian school environment,” Shaw said.
Shaw is excited about the growth, but says it will capped. There are no plans for the school to ever enroll more than 1,500 students.
“There's a lot of research that says once you go over 1,500 students, you really change the dynamic of the school, the relationships between students, parents and the faculty and the staff,” Shaw said. “So our thought was that we'd actually go to another campus and begin to reproduce what we have right here somewhere else.”
Classes should start at the new elementary school in September. The mid-high and high school, which is about 60 percent of the entire project, is set to be complete by the beginning of the 2016 school year.