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Teacher Keith Riddle teaches 6th graders " Old Testament Survey" class at the SS Christian Academy, Weymouth on Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2019 Greg Derr/The Patriot Ledger

WEYMOUTH - When Tom Dagley was a teacher at Quincy High School, he wished he could talk to students about his Christian faith, he said. He wanted to instill what he saw as core values, and he wanted students to know all the ways faith shaped his own life.

But, in a public school setting, educators are barred from spreading religious beliefs or letting their lessons be influenced by faith. So, Dagley, his father and family friend Ken Perry set out to forge their own way, founding South Shore Christian Academy -- a nondenominational private school that teaches roughly 250 students per year.

Want news like this sent straight to your inbox? Head over to PatriotLedger.com to sign up for alerts and make sure you never miss a thing. You pick the news you want, we deliver.”We weren’t anti-public school, we were pro-biblical teachings,” Tom Dagley, who still teaches a Bible class and math at the school, said. “We believe in it so much that we wanted to be able to teach it freely and have it as our foundation.”

Now in its 25th year, Dagley said the school is exactly what its founders hoped it would be, and administrators say the academy fills a need in an area bursting at the seems with denominational private school options.

“Since we aren’t connected to a specific church, we’re open to all aspects of the faith,” Mark Jennings, head of school, said. “The more voices who are involved in the conversation, the better it will be. This helps our students grow in their faith and be surrounded by people who live it in different ways.”

South Shore Christian Academy is located in a 107-year-old building on Broad Street that was once home to Weymouth’s Hunt Elementary School. It teaches students in pre-school through high school and graduates classes between 15 and 25 students each year. At the time of its founding, it was the only religious school on the South Shore to teach students all the way through high school, Dagley said.

In addition to core subjects, students take a bible class each year. In younger grades, the classes focus on basic components of faith and how to incorporate them into everyday life, Jennings said. As they age, they study deeper themes, social issues and ethics.

While the Bible class is mandatory, administrators say its important that students aren’t pushed toward a specific denomination or belief.

“Even though we are all reading the same book, there are different interpretations,” Dagley said. “When I teach something, I make sure to lay out all the views from different denominations. I’ll tell them what I believe, but this is for them to figure out for themselves.”

The school’s guiding principals may come from a book that is thousands of years old, but Jennings said that doesn’t mean its teachings are stuck in the past.

“One of the maxims of education is that if you’re not moving ahead, you’re falling behind,” Jennings said. “We’re always thinking about what the world is going to look like by the time our students enter it, and that’s a world that is very interactive, is project based and where technology is integrated into everyday life.”

Course offerings at the school include conceptual physics, Advanced Placement literature, calculus and earth science. Because of the academy’s small size, Jennings said teachers are able to quickly pivot to offer new electives based on student interest, and that he expects to soon see expansions in language classes and music offerings.

Classes are small at South Shore Christian, in part because of space restraints and in part to keep a small teacher-to-student ratio that staff members say make the school unique.

For 2011 graduate Gina Leapy, the relationships she made with her teachers were enough to bring her back when she wanted to go into education. Now, in her fifth year of teaching, she says she feels right at home.

“I want my students to understand that they matter, their learning style matters and I will walk along side them to help them succeed, because that was done for me,” she said. “I always knew I wanted to be a teacher, so my dream was to come back here.”

Tuition at South Shore Christian starts at $9,300 for the lower school and rises to $13,000 per year for high school. 

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