Faith Christian High School in Arvada will be closing at the end of the 2022-2023 school year due to mounting debt, Faith Christian Superintendent Andrew Hasz and Pastor Jason King announced in a video message to families.
The high school, located on Carr Street, has been acquired by Grace Church of Arvada for $12 million. Grace will reopen the high school for the 2023-2024 school year under a new name and leadership team, according to Grace Church Pastor Rick Long.
Faith Christian’s K-8 school, located on Ward Road, will remain open under Faith Christian Academy’s banner.
Hasz did not respond for comment by press time but said a representative from the school would be available for an interview with Colorado Community Media within the next couple of days.
Faith Christian Academy celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2021 but mounting financial woes had been plaguing the church over the past two decades, according to King’s comments in the video message to families, posted to YouTube on Nov. 18.
The ministry’s K-8 was founded in Denver in 1971, with the high school opening the following year.
In an interview with the Arvada Press last year, Hasz said the school’s total K-12 enrollment was “a little under 850,” a figure he said was up 100 from the previous school year. Hasz said his father Martin founded the school with the goal “to have a school where the focus on God could be central and students would be encouraged to have a personal relationship with Jesus.”
Faith also has been embroiled in a number of high-profile lawsuits, including a racial discrimination suit filed by former teacher Gregg Tucker and a suit filed by FCA against the Jefferson County Public Health Department over the department’s COVID-19 protocols.
The discrimination suit is ongoing after the 10th Circuit Court declined to review it en banc, while JCPH was granted an injunction in the COVID lawsuit.
Long said that he was a parent at Faith Christian when Tucker was fired and that he was aware of FCA’s lawsuits, stating that Grace Church’s legal team would be “investigating every single detail” of the events that begat the legal proceedings.
“When we launch, with whoever we launch with, we’ll be sure it’s exactly the standards and ideals of Grace Church,” Long said. “We pull no punches with how we operate as a ministry.”
In the video, King said that between 1991 and 2000, FCA took out a $6.8 million loan to purchase its Carr Street campus. In 2002, Faith took out an additional $14.2 million to finance the building of its worship center.
In 2014, the ministry converted the interest-only load to a conventional load, and by 2017, the ministry had only paid off about $1.4 million, leaving Faith with a debt of $19 million. At that point, the ministry began working to cut its overhead, with King stating that they were “led of the Lord.”
“The Board of Elders felt that the Lord was leading us to make some decisions that were difficult, but we truly believe they were led of the Lord,” King — who became Faith’s pastor in 2017 — said. “From day one decided, we’re going to live between our means, we’re going to trim the fat, we’re going to restructure, we’re going to run lean and run hard.”
King said that Faith has paid down $4 million of the $19 million-dollar debt. Nevertheless, with a looming $7 million balloon payment due in June, the ministry’s Board of Elders unanimously decided to sell the Carr Street property to Grace Church, which is led by Pastor Rick Long, with King calling the move a “Kingdom Transaction” that would improve Faith’s K-8.
“In a chain of events that can only be attributed to the leading of God, Faith Church and Grace Church became the answer to each other’s prayers,” King said. “Please know, this decision was not made lightly. With this Kingdom Transaction, it will significantly reduce our debt and allow us to come closer to fully walking out God’s call and purpose for us as a ministry.
“It will also raise the level of excellence and impact in FCA K-8,” King continued. “This will also allow for the impact of Christian education in our city to rise to the level of impact we believe is needed and we were not able to do alone.”
Hasz called the decision “heartbreaking” and added that he felt that “both schools are going to be better” in the future.
“This is God’s school, so if God wants to end the high school, that’s his prerogative,” Hasz said. “The high school is going to continue in its location. There will be a name change, but there are some exciting days ahead for the high school.”
Hasz — who said he will be helping with the transition at the high school — added that Grace is looking to build a new fieldhouse, performing arts facility and classrooms, which Long confirmed.
“We’ve got some millions to put into (the high school),” Long said. “We’re in a fundraising mood right now.”
Hasz said that Faith is now in a “much better position” to invest in its K-8 campus.
Tucker, the litigant in the lawsuit that claims that Faith fired Tucker — who taught at FCA’s high school for 10 years —for holding a discussion on race with students, said that the school’s closure won’t impact the ongoing legal proceedings.
“This does not at all impact my ongoing litigation with the school, or (sic) any impending litigation,” Tucker said in a Facebook post. “We recently won another appeal (en banc) with the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, and it may now be headed to the Supreme Court.”
In the post, Tucker called the closure “Really good news,” owing to the school’s “Long history of ignoring racism, sexual harassment and assault, and LGBTQ bullying, and retaliating against students and teachers that speak out against those things.”
Nancy Felix, a former FCA parent whose daughter, Ramya Sinha, said she experienced racial discrimination during her time at the school, said in a Facebook post that she would celebrate “that racist school closing.”
In his Facebook post, Tucker raised concerns over the new leadership at FCA, calling Grace’s leadership “somewhat enmeshed” with FCA’s, and called for the school’s new leadership to consider the reconciliation document that was put together by parents, students and community members after Tucker’s firing.
“I’m concerned that what will rise in its place will not be that much different,” Tucker said. “The leadership at Grace Church is somewhat enmeshed with the leadership at Faith Christian High School, and they were absolutely silent as the many stories about the dysfunctional leadership and toxic environment at the school came to light. So, I won’t be surprised if some of the leaders remain at the new school and some of the same problems persist.”
Long said he had not heard from Tucker nor been made aware of “any document” from the former teacher. All four of Long’s children are graduates of FCA, according to Long, who also said that the new high school would rent out FCA’s K-8 gym until a new fieldhouse is built.
“99%” of FCA administrators will stay with Faith’s K-8, according to Long.
“I want a high school that is affordable but is the best high school West of the Mississippi,” Long said.
FCA hosted a community meeting for families to hear from Grace Church’s leadership on Dec. 5 at its Carr Street campus, which Long said had a “really, really great” response overall.
Long added that Grace would also operate a Center of Hope community center featuring educational programs, grief counseling and other services on the Carr Street campus after school and extracurricular hours.
Current FCA high school students will be given the option to preregister and pay their deposit for the 2023-2014 school year if they would like to attend the new school.
Regarding teachers and faculty, Long said that his team will meet with each of them individually starting this month and evaluate their future with the Grace-run high school.
“We have to get to the point of contract with each of them,” Long said. “For me, I’ve been around the school for 35 years — I coached there, and obviously have friendships and relationships with some of them, not many of them — I want to treat this in the most honorable way and we’re going to be meeting with them individually.
“We’re going to find out where they’re at and we’re going to put the very best people in positions,” Long continued. “I know they’re all aware of that and I know they’re also encouraged by the fact that if they’re the very best person, they’re going to be there.”
Long also said that he hoped to have “a quarter of our kids on scholarship of some sort,” and wanted to work with the ACE Foundation — the president of whom, Jason DiFraia, is a Grace Church leadership team member — to achieve that goal.
The new school will also have a code of conduct, according to Long.
“In a school, you have to have a code of conduct. And you have to have very — and these are teenagers, they’re still in need of having structure, and discipline and a code of conduct," he said. "For us, we like what we have seen but a lot of times it’s not the letter of the law, it’s the spirit of the law.”
When asked what about the existing FCA legacy he would like to improve upon, Long pointed to inclusivity as a growth area.
“I don’t think this is an either/or, where they didn’t do this and we’re going to do this, but rather they did this and we’re going to do it better,” Long said. “Our ministry is very grace-oriented, and that means that we absolutely love people where they’re at and we love people regardless.
“And we want to have an atmosphere in the school where every teacher, every student, every parent knows that they’re loved and there’s an open line of communication,” Long continued. “Instead of just having very dogmatic ‘this is how things are’… we want to have a little more open dialogue, a little more grace. Not that they haven’t had that, but we think we as a ministry have a finger on the pulse of what that looks like.”
Long said the purchase of the Carr Street property will close on Feb. 1, 2023. The school will remain Faith Christian until the end of May 2023 and would reopen in August 2023 under a new name which will be unveiled after Jan. 1, 2023. Long added that Grace Church leaders are working with marketing firms to decide the new name.
“We are ecstatic to be able to pour into the next generation to create a Christian private education that’ll be excellent, affordable, family-friendly, and completely committed to loving others,” Long said. “There’s a difference between being a religious school and being a relationally driven school, which is what we will be.”