More than 160 New London kindergartners through fifth-graders are enrolled in the Lifewise Academy, which according to the program’s website, “provides Bible-based character education for public school students during school hours.”
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It is offered to students who have a parent’s permission and is presented during the school day in an off-campus site funded with private money. It costs the schools nothing and is allowable by law through the concept of Released Time Religious Instruction (RTRI), which has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The program is nondenominational, and a visitor to one of the New London classes will find it taking place in a room unadorned with any religious icons, pictures, crosses or quotes.
Buddy Workman heads up the local program as the Northeast Ohio Lifewise field representative, and the New London staff includes Laura Ayers, Zach McFarland and Toni Whitney.
Loudonville-Perrysville and Hillsdale school districts also have Lifewise programs
Workman says New London is one of the first schools in the area to have a Lifewise program, but it also can be found in the Loudonville-Perrysville and Hillsdale school districts.
He adds the program is growing rapidly, and this fall the New London classes will expand and be offered to all K-12 students. Also, high school students will be able to take an online course for high school and college credit.
Unpaid volunteers from around the community assist with the program. Retired teacher Martha Hecock is one of these volunteers, as well as a member of the governing board. She says she believes the program gives kids a solid foundation in basic ethics such as trust, respect and gratitude, which can help counterbalance some of the negativity they may encounter in life.
Other board members include Ayers, Mike Collins, Chris Lopez, Vicky Missler, Amanda Clime, Kimberly Conn, Marilyn Kamm, Bill Given and Eric Green.
More information can be found online or by contacting Workman by phone at 419-631-0683 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. In Ashland County, contact John Teevan by phone at 614-572-8599 or by email at email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on Ashland Times Gazette: New London's Lifewise Academy has more than 160 elementary students