All the pieces in place for new Life Christian Academy campus

Published 7:35 am Saturday, June 18, 2022

Life Christian Academy is ready to begin construction on its new, pre-K-12 campus, according to Stefanee Nelson Tolbert, co-founder and principal.

“We started the project in 2019,” Tolbert said. “We purchased the land without a timeline in mind, thinking we would acquire the acreage and see where we would go from there.”

The 40 acres is off Beglis Parkway, a half-mile south of Interstate 10.

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With COVID behind them, all the pieces are in place to move forward, Tolbert said. Financing is with First Federal of Louisiana. The contractor is Marcus Hoffpauir. Architect is Barry King. The project is estimated to be about $15 million. A timeline has not been set.

“Typically, a project such as this would take about 18 months,” Tolbert said. “But with some materials hard to get because of supply chain issues, we realize it could take longer. Ideally, it will be completed in the next three years.”

Site engineering has already been completed with funds, provided mostly by parents of students of the private non denominational Christian school.

At its current location, Life Christian Academy enrolls students in pre-K3 through eighth grade.

“Four hundred and 20 students are signed up to attend in the upcoming school year. Five hundred are on the waiting list,” Tolbert said.

Her mother, Carolyn Nelson, is a retired Calcasieu Parish School Baord teacher. She home-schooled her grandchildren in 2008.

“It was home-school, but she set it up like a school to give her grandkids an option,” Tolbert said. “She had three the first year.”

Tolbert was enrolled in LSU at the time, and her plan was to create the private school model in Baton Rouge after graduation.

She has a degree in education from LSU and is certified to teach English through grade 12. She also has an associate’s degree from a Dallas Bible College and an advanced educational leadership and administration degree from McNeese State University.

It’s an education hard won, as she was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder when she was in grade school. Often she was in trouble for moving around or talking.

Instead of a school in Baton Rouge, she realized the need for such a school in Southwest Louisiana.

“My mother said she would help in any way she could but she hadn’t really planned to start a school. She had no idea what she was getting into and neither did I,” Tolbert said. “I knew the kind of school I wanted my children to attend didn’t exist so let’s make it.”

Her husband agreed.

The first year, 20 students enrolled. Nelson and Tolbert filed with the state to have Life Christian Academy for the 2011-2012 school year. Nelson taught younger children. Tolbert taught the older children. Twenty-six students enrolled.

“I had no idea at the time that it would grow into what it has become,” she said.

She realized that first and foremost the school would have to be academically rigorous. She had experienced first-hand that learning involves more than sitting at a desk and reading a chapter then being tested on it.

“I tell my team every single day that something out of the ordinary should happen in the classroom, that’s what is going to stick,” Tolbert said.

She also realized that Christ would have to be at the school’s center.

“I want to be obedient to God, that’s No. 1,” Tolbert said, “and I want to raise up world changers who advance the kingdom of God.”