Nelson Christian School has purchased a new location on the North Shore, at 570 Johnstone Road, after 18 years of leasing its previous location in Fairview.
The property has had many different uses in the past, mostly as educational facilities. It was the former home of School District 8’s board office and from the 1960s until the 2000s it was home to North Shore Elementary School.
In 2021 the property was bought by Valid Manufacturing, a tech company who hoped to use the property to manufacture and design electronics.
The company purchased the property for $1.2 million but it didn’t sit well with residents in the area, who feared the use of the property for industrial purposes would negatively affect the quiet residential neighborhood.
The superintendent of Nelson Christian School, Kevin Bernhardt, says that since NCS announced they were purchasing the site, the community has been extremely supportive.
“All the people we’ve talked to along Johnstone Road are very pleased and excited that a school is moving onto the property,” says Bernhardt.
“We’re still very committed to maintaining the fields and the public right-of-way so the public can still have the access to get through the property down towards the lake, and I think coming out of the previous attempt to have it rezoned, there was just a real desire from the community to maintain and not lose the integrity of the property.”
Bernhardt says that the community response has been so positive it has helped them significantly move forward with renovations and fast track the relocation.
“We’ve actually had local residents who have offered to volunteer and come and help with the renovations. We had thought originally we would have to hire contractors to do everything. But we’ve had several volunteers who are putting in long hours and allowing us to be far ahead of schedule than we had thought.”
He says the relocation has been a big financial commitment, but it has been Nelson Christian School’s dream to own their own property for years.
“We’ve had a desire to own our own property for at least five years. Our total budget from purchase to renovation was about $1.5 million but it’s something we’ve been gearing up for. We’ve been very blessed with a strong community that stepped forward and helped us not only purchase the property, but also have a fund to complete all the needed renovations.”
Bernhardt says they have already started moving offices into the new building, and although renovations may not be fully complete by the time the new school year starts, it will be close and he is excited to be able to offer students better educational opportunities than they have had in the past.
“In the new location, our goal is to enhance our physical education programming, our outdoor education programming, and our integration of technology in student learning in our classes,” he says.
“The new facility is a bit smaller, but it’s configured more like a school. The building we are currently in was actually a former dorm, so it’s like a tunnel. Everything is long and narrow, so it’s not conducive to classes. It’s great for offices, but not conducive to run a school out of.”
He says the property on Johnstone Road is much larger, which allows more room for expansion.
“The new property itself is larger. It’s 2.6 acres whereas the property that we’re leasing here is probably about half of that. There’s a huge future for expansion potential on that site.”
Bernhardt says they plan on hosting a community engagement session in the fall, which will allow the community to see the work they’ve done on the site and discuss concerns about public accessibility.
“Our plan in the fall is to have an open house where we invite the community out and have some discussions around access to the public. We will be looking at putting in a playground eventually and we want to hear from the public on how they want to see the fields be accessible by the community.”