By KEVIN CHIRI
Slidell news bureau
SLIDELL – A public interest meeting will be hosted by a Slidell church group on Thursday, July 16 that aims at starting a non-denominational Christian school here in the fall of 2016, patterned after the highly rated Northlake Christian School on the west side of St. Tammany Parish.
New Horizon Church in Slidell, pastored by John Raymond, is ready to begin the new pre-K to 12th grade school in one year—to be called Lakeside Christian Academy–and is hosting the meeting this Thursday at 7 p.m. to hear questions, comments and concerns about the school.
In a half-page advertisement in The Slidell Independent the church stated it has a “vision of LCA to become the premier college preparatory Christian school in East St. Tammany Parish.”
Raymond said the continuing news events in the country, which have taken God out of the public school system in many ways, were the main motivating factor to finally set a start date for Lakeside Christian Academy.
“This has been on our heart for a decade,” he said. “Even though we have been blessed to have Northlake Christian School on the west side of the parish as a non-denominational Christian school, we believe God has shown us it is time to have a similar school on the east side of the parish.”
Raymond was quick to compliment First Baptist Christian School and Pope John Paul High School, which offer Christian principles in their teaching without public school interference. But he believes the east side of the parish needs a non-denominational school—much like Northlake Christian—to serve this area.
“First Baptist is a terrific school and Pope John Paul is great choice as well,” he said. “But we believe there needs to be a non-denominational Christian environment like the one Northlake Christian has.
“Currently the families in this area who want that kind of school have to travel to Covington every day,” he said. “But there are a lot of pine trees between here and Covington and that’s why we want to begin Lakeside Christian Academy.”
Raymond didn’t mince words in talking about the state of public education in the country, which has come under the attack of non-Christian guidelines from the government.
“Public education is no longer a viable alternative for the Christian family,” he stated very strongly. “There are many great Christian teachers who are doing their best in the public school system, but they must follow federal guidelines that have all but taken God out of the school system.”
Raymond pointed to the Common Core national standards now being implemented across the nation, even though the St. Tammany School Board has done its best to keep them out of the parish. And then with the recent Supreme Court ruling that legalizes marriage between any two people—men with men or women with women–he said there are already instances around the country where it is showing up in the school system.
“In California it is now the law that any children go use either restroom. Now a 17-year-old boy can sit in the stall next to a 15-year-old girl,” he said. “It’s sexually confusing.”
He also cited a case in Fairfax, Va. where he said the new curriculum teaches transgender education.
“The new curriculum teaches children that it’s OK to ‘decide’ if you want to be a boy or a girl,” he said. “And in Seattle, Wash. an 11-year-old girl can now have an IUD implanted at the school with no parental consent so she can have sex without using any other protection. These things are coming across the country into every public school system.”
Raymond said they are already accepting applications for educators, administrators and students at the school, all preparing a year ahead of time for the school so they can gauge the interest and the expected numbers.
“Many of the elementary grades are already maxed out at other area private schools so we know there will be large numbers in those grades,” he said. “We have to see what interest there is for the high school grades to be sure what to expect at that level.”
Raymond, who became a public figure over 10 years ago in Slidell when he was selected as a local pastor to be part of the fifth season of the popular “Survivor” television show, returned from the show and began to pastor his church locally in 2006. New Horizon now operates at 3401 Pontchartrain Dr. in Slidell in a 30,000 square foot building that will be home to the first year of the church.
“We have already been looking at pieces of land to build the school and a new church,” he said. “We know we have to do this now since I believe we have a mandate for the Christian community to get our children out of the world, which means getting them out of the public school system now.”
Raymond noted too many children are learning more at school than they do at home or church, since they are in school almost 50 hours a week.
“There is no way 45 minutes of Sunday school can override what our children are getting from 45 hours in the public school classroom, not to mention the indoctrination from the entertainment world,” he said. “The more we have seen things happen in the news that affect the education our children get, we knew it was the right time to do this.”
Raymond added that public school education always had the controversy of teaching evolution, but with court cases going against Christians, there is too much non-Biblical teaching to ignore.
“The way public schools teach now they have taken away the idea that there is a divine creator, teaching evolution which rejects God,” he said. “The only alternative for Christian families should be to homeschool your kids, or to find Christian education.”
Raymond said they have not set tuition fees yet, but said “we will be competitive with other private schools, and intend to eventually set up a foundation to help ensure no children are kept away because of their inability to pay.”
For more information before the public meeting, call 985-781-3175.