One of the most exciting parts of the growing push for universal school choice is the new learning options that will be created when parents can direct the education funding for their children. Expression Prep Academy in Huntington, West Virginia, is a good example of this. Pastor Kevin West of Expression Church says he’d been looking for the right time to start a school. Then a friend introduced him to Don and Ashley Soifer from the National Microschooling Center.
“Their model seemed like the perfect hybrid between the homeschool and private Christian school setting,” he says. “I started researching it and put a team together. Last year, with the Hope Scholarship coming into play here in West Virginia, it made it really feasible. Rather than doing a real slow process, it helped us expedite it by making it more affordable for families.”
When the Hope Scholarship was delayed by a lawsuit, Pastor West says they decided to move ahead with the new school despite the uncertainty. “We started out with about 13 kids last year and this year we have tripled that. We’re around 43 kids now. Our biggest challenge is the scholarship application period goes from March 1 to May 15 here in West Virginia and people just don’t know about it.”
Expression Prep was K–8 in the first year with multi‐age classrooms split into K–2, 3–4, 5–6, 7–8. This year includes a high school, which has a different structure since the students have to earn specific credits to graduate. Each student has an individualized learning plan, so they can progress according to their specific needs and abilities. The teachers work with students in small groups and one‐on‐one throughout the day.
Pastor West would prefer to have kindergarteners in a separate classroom, but the student body isn’t quite big enough yet. By next school year, he expects to have 100 students overall and at least one separate kindergarten class. They have a 32,000-square-foot building, an additional building, and another 3 or 4 acres that can use.
“I’m confident we’ll be able to grow. There are about 37–38,000 people in Huntington, but we’re right on the river, so we draw from Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia,” Pastor West says. “We’re a very sports‐driven area and a lot of the private schools lose kids to public high schools because of the lack of sports and arts and music. But we are a very big arts, music, and athletic school and church. We have the facilities for it, and we’re building a sports dome right now on our campus.”
He says even as the school grows, they’ll focus on keeping the small school feel. “Our church has the same model as this microschool,” he says. “We’re a small church with lots of people. We do everything we possibly can to create small community and affinity groups. We work hard at that. So I don’t think the number of kids is going to be an issue as long as we stay true to our model.”
For parents looking for a small Christian school with strong music, arts, and athletics programs, Expression Prep Academy could be the perfect fit. Thanks to the Hope Scholarship, opportunities like this are becoming more and more accessible for West Virginian families.