ST. JOHN —The new Illiana Christian High School will be built near “Shoe Corner” at the intersection of 109th and Calumet Avenues in Hanover Township.

The school, which plans to open in the fall of 2018, received approval Thursday from the St. John Utility Board to tie into the town’s water and sewers.

Illiana has been at its current location at 2261 Indiana Ave., near the intersection of Torrence Avenue and Ridge Road, in Lansing, for about 70 years. And even though it has had several additions over the years, it’s “grown tired” according to Principal Peter Boonstra.

“Upgrades are increasingly needed,” he said. “It made more sense for us to start on a new piece of property.”

Jeff Dekker, a member of Illiana’s design and construction team, said the school has considered for some time relocating to Northwest Indiana.

“Over the last 20 years, most of our constituency has moved south from Lansing,” he said. “A lot of them are in St. John, Crown Point and further south.”

Dekker said Illiana served 520 students this year, which was “down a little bit.” He said they figure they’ll lose a few students when they make the move across state lines because the location won’t be as convenient to people from south Chicago or South Holland.

“We imagine, too, that we will gain a few students because the location is so convenient for families in St. John and elsewhere,” he said.

The first phase of the new school will accommodate 550 students, but eventually the campus will be able to serve as many as 800 students, Dekker said.

Boonstra said its a tough challenge to move from one state to another, but his desire is that everybody comes along.

“We can serve the same community better in this new location,” he said. “I’m intent on making this move and keep the family together and keep Illiana Christian High School united.”

Boonstra said the estimated cost for phase one of the school is $25 million and they have received $20 million in cash and commitments from donors with approval from the school’s association to borrow the remaining $5 million.

“Even as its being built, our intention is to continue our fundraising efforts and be able to add more toward our overall master plan,” he said.

The property the new school will be built on is about 40 acres that surround a cluster of homes on the southwest corner of 109th and Calumet. The school will have frontage on both 109th and Calumet.

That intersection is famous for being known as “Shoe Corner,” which for decades has been a dumping ground for shoes that seem to appear and disappear without many witnesses.

As part of the town of St. John granting utilities to Illiana, the school will agree to a condition in which it waives its right to remonstrate if the property is ever annexed to the town. Dekker said he only sees that as a benefit to the school as it would be afforded the town’s services such as fire and police protection.

Town Manager Steve Kil also said the design of the town’s new lift station was made with the thought that Illiana Christian High School moving to that property.

Officials from Illiana Christian High School will hold a groundbreaking at the new location at 10 a.m. on Nov. 5.

For more information on the new school visit buildingilliana.com.


Lake County reporter

Rob covers urban affairs and other matters in Crown Point, St. John, Winfield and beyond. Previously he covered Valparaiso, Hammond, Gary and East Chicago. He's also written for various magazines and pens a culture blog for The Times.