Administrators at a private Christian school in Surprise are hoping the generosity of the community continues in the coming months as part of a fundraising effort to provide temporary classroom space on the landlocked campus.

After five years of converting former offices to classrooms, administrators at Palms Christian School say they have run out of available building space and are attempting to raise $250,000 to erect five temporary on-campus trailers to better manage growth.

While the goal for now is to provide sixth grade, administrators hope to one day offer a middle and high school curriculum for students interested in small classroom settings.

Betty Hall, a school administrator, said the outpouring of support received from parents and the community at large has been tremendous – they have already received $120,000 – but explained additional capital is needed to offer sixth grade for the 2011-12 school year.

Hall and other administrators believe they will be able to raise the needed monies by May to provide current fifth graders the opportunity to attend Palms Christian for sixth grade, rather than lose them to another private school or the public school system.

“We refuse to accept that possibility,” Ericca Dunn, the school’s third-grade teacher and choir director, said of not being able to reach the fundraising goal.

The $120,000 currently in hand would provide for only three classroom trailers. With an additional $130,000, Hall said administrators would be able to pay for five, as well as provide space for a computer lab, new playground equipment and classroom essentials.

Established in 2006, Palms Christian School is a private K-5 interdenominational Christian school at 174th Avenue and Bell Road, offering an intimate classroom environment — the student to teacher ratio is 9:1 — in order for children to better understand basic concepts and succeed in the classroom.

Chawna Anderson and Meghann Booker, who are both parents of kindergartners, said their children feel a sense of community and belonging at Palms Christian that they couldn’t receive in the public school setting.

Other parents said their children struggled in larger classroom settings in the Dysart Unified School District, where teachers don’t have the time or resources to cater to those needing extra attention, but are now more motivated as they are learning at a higher clip compared to their public school peers.

“Palms Christian is a hidden little gem,” Booker said.

Besides offering a rigorous academic curriculum, students can also get involved in the performing arts, with weekly lessons to learn guitar and piano. Students can also join the choir or become involved in school plays through drama.

Student involvement in the fine arts has helped Palms Christian School have more visibility throughout Surprise through various performances and, in turn, allow the community to understand the school’s financial challenges and offer help through donations.

Parents, through the help of their children, have helped raise $33,000 from various Christian organizations for Palms Christian, while residents of Happy Trails, an age-restricted resort and RV community in Surprise, have alone donated $10,000 to the fundraising efforts.

“When you give back, it gives back to you,” Dunn said of the school’s choir and drama performances and goodwill throughout the community coming back in the form of donations.

Hall, the school administrator, said some students have even brought in their modest $10 to $20 weekly allowance money to go toward fundraising efforts to expand the school.

“When you see that, you know (the fundraising effort) is going to be accomplished because these kids want it so badly,” she said.

Donations can be made to Palms Christian School by calling 623-544-3498.

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