All the pieces in place for the new Life Christian Academy campus

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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 bought the land with no timeline in mind, thinking we would acquire the acreage and see where we go from there.”

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

With COVID behind them, all the pieces are in place moving forward, Tolbert said. Funding is with First Federal of Louisiana. The contractor is Marcus Hoffpauir. The architect is Barry King. The project is estimated at around $15 million. A timeline has not been set.

“Typically, a project like this would take about 18 months,” Tolbert said. “But with some materials difficult to obtain due to supply chain issues, we realize this could take longer. Ideally it will be completed within the next three years.

Site engineering has alalready been topped up with funds, provided primarily by parents of students in the non-denominational Christian private school.

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

“Four hundred and twenty students have registered to participate in the upcoming school year. Five hundred are on the waiting list,” Tolbert said.

His mother, Carolyn Nelson, is a retired teacher from Calcasieu Parish School. She homeschooled her grandchildren in 2008.

“It was homeschooling, but she organized it like a school to give her grandchildren an option,” Tolbert said. “She had three the first year.”

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

She holds a degree in education from LSU and is certified to teach English through 12th grade. She also holds an Associate’s degree from Dallas Bible College and an Advanced Diploma in Educational Leadership and Administration from McNeese State University.

It’s a hard-earned education, as she was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder when she was in elementary school. Often she had problems moving or speaking.

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

“My mum 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 kids to go to didn’t exist, so let’s do it.”

Her husband agreed.

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

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

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

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

She also realized that Christ should be at the center of the school.

“I want to obey God, that’s number 1,” Tolbert said, “and I want to raise up world changers who advance the kingdom of God.”


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