MERRILLVILLE | While homeschooling her son, Ronda Payne had thoughts of starting her own school, but she didn't know if it would happen.
Then Payne was approached by some parents who wanted her to teach their children.
Payne opened the Midwest Elite Preparatory Academy in 2005, she said. The private school met at a Merrillville church until Payne moved the school to 8101 Polo Club Drive about a year ago.
The school for children in kindergarten through 12th grade currently has an enrollment of 70 students, Payne said.
The Merrillville Town Council recently granted Payne the authority to expand the school at the Polo Club Drive location.
The expansion allows Payne to increase enrollment by 50 students. Payne said new students will join Midwest Elite in January.
While her Merrillville school is progressing, Payne looks to grow internationally.
She said she has a goal to open sister schools in Africa and Japan within the next 10 months.
Payne would offer a student exchange program after those schools open, she said.
Midwest Elite, which is in the process of obtaining Freeway school accreditation through the state, is in session year round, Payne said.
"In life you don't get summers off," she said.
Besides typical classes, sign language and Japanese are taught at the school.
Payne said many students at her school have graduated early.
This year, one 15-year-old student and two 16-year-old students will graduate, she said. One student has been accepted to Ivy Tech. The two other students have been accepted to Purdue University, Payne said.
"I think it's awesome," Town Councilwoman Chrissy Barron said of the school.
When Midwest Elite sought town approval for its expansion in town, Barron met with parents to discuss their opinions of the school.
"I didn't hear one complaint," Barron said.
She said parents she met are happy with the education their children are receiving and the small class sizes at the school.
"I think it's an asset to the community," Barron said.