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Christian school plans Ivy League flavor campus in southeast valley

Updated April 10, 2021 - 8:02 am

A new private Christian school plans to bring some Ivy League ambience to the southeast Las Vegas Valley with a 25-acre main campus festooned with brick buildings and lush greenery.

Capstone Christian Academy, an independent nondenominational school, will open this spring for preschool through second grade students. Its initial home is an existing 13,000-square-foot building that used to be a child care center on East Serene Avenue before it begins construction next year on its new main campus on East Cactus Avenue.

Minor improvements are being done to the existing 2-acre campus, which used to be a Kids ‘R’ Kids Learning Academy center in the Silverado Ranch area. The building came with a lot of furniture.

“It’s a very wonderful blessing to have that kind of fall on our laps,” said Bill Wadley, Capstone Christian Academy founder and president of Impact Cos., which includes Impact Sand & Gravel and Wadley Construction Inc.

But the big push will come in January, when construction begins on the main campus.

Plans call for four brick buildings constructed in phases, starting with an academic facility with classrooms and administrative offices, followed by construction of a gym and performing arts center. Once completed, the Cactus campus will house preschool through 12th grades.

Full build-out costs unclear

Wadley did not provide an estimated cost for the project, but a school brochure lists current assets of $17.55 million: $8.75 million for the 25 acres of land for the Cactus campus; $4.1 million for the Cactus campus building pad, flood and utility improvements; $3.2 million for purchase of the Serene campus; and $1.5 million in cash, pledges and gifts in kind.

The nonprofit intends to continue fundraising to meet the eventual cost, whatever it might be.

By comparison, Bishop Gorman High School — one of the valley’s largest private schools with approximately 1,500 students — moved to a new 52-acre campus in 2007 on South Hualapai Way in Summerlin after more than 50 years in a facility on Maryland Parkway. The cost of that project was approximately $93 million.

Capstone school founders have been pushing for more than 14 years to open a private school in southeast Las Vegas. They say it’s an underserved area — close to Henderson communities such as Seven Hills, Anthem and Inspirada — as many elite private schools are in the northwest valley.

Wadley said it’s a “travesty” that Nevada’s public school system ranks toward the bottom nationally, and he wants Capstone to be one of the valley’s premier schools and provide another option for families.

Capstone is replicating systems and curriculum used by Valley Christian Schools in San Jose, California, and Valor Christian High School in Highlands Ranch, Colorado. Officials at those schools are providing expertise and guidance to the new Las Vegas school.

Registration at Capstone is open for next school year, and school officials are aiming to enroll 144 students. Tuition for year-round preschool instruction, which will begin May 24, is $850 per month or $10,200 yearly. Tuition for kindergarten through second grade students, who can begin classes on Aug. 9, is $850 per month or $8,500 annually.

More information can be obtained at 702-463-9350 or capstonechristian.com.

The local school has administrators on board and plans to hire 16 more employees in the next year. A six-member Board of Trustees oversees operations.

Capstone’s proposed timeline, if the school meets its fundraising goals, is to add middle school classes in 2024 and high school classes in 2028. The first high school graduating class is expected in 2031.

The aim is to have somewhere between 2,000 and 3,000 students enrolled, although Wadley acknowledges the goal is “kind of ambitious.”

“Our vision is to have a family of schools,” he said.

The nonprofit Capstone Academy first received the land on Cactus Avenue via a donation in 2006 by prominent Las Vegas developer Larry Canarelli and his wife, Heidi — who are also the namesakes of a Clark County School District middle school. But when economic recession hit, plans to move forward with building Capstone’s campus “kind of fizzled,” Wadley said.

But despite the setback, Capstone says in its brochure that it plans to operate debt free: “No debt means more scholarships for low income students and high levels of excellence,” it says.

‘Graduating world-changing leaders’

Wadley, a 51-year Las Vegas Valley resident, said he grew up in a terrible environment as a child, including experiencing homelessness and poverty. But he enlisted in the U.S. Army and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in engineering from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He later earned a master of business administration degree from a Georgia college.

As for his West Point experience, “That has really caused me to see a) the value of a good education and b) wanting to give kids that same opportunity,” he said.

He said the thing he is most excited for Capstone to begin “graduating world-changing leaders.”

Capstone will nurture students’ Christian faith, Wadley said, adding that it’s hard to find a school with the right balance.

If faith is pushed on children too much, they end up rejecting it, he said, while other schools may water down religious instruction or be “closed-minded in its thinking.”

The school will also teach students life skills, he said, noting most people get more instruction on how to drive a car than on how raise children, be a good marriage partner or balance their checkbook.

And, Wadley said, students will learn communication and relationship skills, such as “how to argue or disagree with someone in a constructive way.”

Capstone plans to provide scholarship opportunities for low-income families and hopes to have a “sponsor a child program, Wadley said, so “lots of poor kids like me are going to be able to go to the school.”

Contact Julie Wootton-Greener at jgreener@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2921. Follow @julieswootton on Twitter.

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