A donation of $50 million is making a big difference in many young lives in Owasso; it's funding a major school expansion and people at Rejoice Christian Schools are celebrating the good news.
It's a huge development for the Christian school that started in a church gym. The new school is going to be more than 260,000 square feet and built on 50 acres. It's doubling its number of employees with the expansion, becoming one of the largest employers in Owasso.
From small beginnings to a $50 million campus, Rejoice Christian Schools will no longer have to turn down students due to lack of space.
Superintendent Craig Shaw said, "It's just unbelievable. I can't imagine that this is happening right here."
The donation is allowing school leaders to break ground on new elementary, middle and high schools, set to house 1,500 students, along with a performing arts center and athletic facilities.
"It's expanded our vision. We're just doing so much more than we ever dreamed," Shaw said.
Teacher Arilla Karlak remembers when Rejoice started in a church annex in 1992, with just four teachers and 40 students.
"It's thrilling to realize where we've come in the last 20 years," Karlak said. "Every Wednesday evening, the teachers had to tear down their rooms. Every Thursday morning they had to put them back together. Every Friday evening they had to tear down their rooms for church on Sunday."
She can't help but smile talking about the new campus.
"When I think of the possibilities we have to impact our world, I'm speechless," Karlak said.
Shaw said his students will finally have the tools they need.
"We will actually have classrooms that are not make-shift classrooms; 900 square feet for every teacher. Our classrooms, we limit the size at 18 students," said Shaw.
They expect construction to be finished by August 2015.
The donation is from the Eddy Gibbs Family Trust. Gibbs founded Ameristar Fence company in Tulsa three decades ago and sold it last fall to Assa Abloy, a Swedish company that is the largest manufacturer of locks in the world.
Gibbs's daughter and grandson attend the school.
The trust released the following statement about the donation:
"We are proud to announce that the Eddy Gibbs Family Trust has committed sufficient funding to build an entire first-class campus for Rejoice Christian School K-3 through K-12. This funding includes provision for land acquisition, architecture and engineering, buildings, class rooms and athletic facilities. The Performing Arts Center will be provided by others. The level of funding from the Gibbs Family Trust will result in the creation of a total school facility, that, when completed, will be debt-free. Further contributions will still be required for an endowment, operating expenses and furnishings."