PORTAGE | Portage Christian School has come a long way since it opened its doors in 1979.
The small, private school recently took another step this past week by gaining freeway accreditation by the Indiana Board of Education.
The accreditation, said Superintendent Larry Pender, will require the school to meet some state regulations, while allowing it to maintain its freedom to teach Bible-based curriculum.
Pender, who just finished his first year at the school, said the school will begin teaching Core 40, and will be subject to auditing by the state. Students, for the first time, will have to take ISTEP tests.
Pender said the accreditation will also pave the way for the school to participate in the state's voucher program.
Pender, a Hobart native and 1976 graduate of Hammond Baptist High School, said his school also is working on being accredited with the Association of Christian Schools International.
The decision to seek state accreditation was made before Pender took his leadership role.
"It is a way to verify that quality education is taking place," said Pender, adding it also helps in the branding of the school.
Bottom line, however, he said, it doesn't change much at the school.
"We've always wanted our students to do well and to move on to college and do well in their futures," he said.
The school has about 200 students in prekindergarten through grade 12, predominantly from Lake and Porter counties, but some from as far as Chicago and Michigan City.
"Our appeal is primarily to evangelical Christian parents. But we don't discriminate against any religion. Our foundation is the belief in the absolute truth. All of the subjects we teach rise from that foundation," he said.
Pender said coming to the school was like coming back home. After graduating from Tennessee Temple University, he was pastor at a church in the Boston area for 11 years before moving to Tuscaloosa, Ala., where he began his teaching career. He most recently came from a school in Granville, Ohio. He and his wife, Theresa, also a Hobart native, have five children.