New London charter school Christ The King celebrates 25th anniversary

A charter school in New London will celebrate a milestone this weekend with an open house event.

Christ The King Christian Academy, 210 N. Ferry Road, New London, will celebrate its 25th anniversary Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. with games, food and other events.

John Kahl, the founder and owner of the school hosted by Highland Baptist Church, has been principal of the school for its entire existence. The school now sits on land adjacent to the church and has done so for 19 years.

Kahl said students are different now than when the school started in many ways, including kids as young as kindergartners having their own cellphones.

“That’s a lot of blue screen time that growing up we didn’t have … everybody’s connected now,” Kahl said. “You’ve got all of this information at your fingertips … their phones are more powerful than most laptops are.”

Kahl said when kids ask why they have to go to school when they can look things up online, he responds, “How do you know it’s a reputable source?”

The academy, he said, tried a decade ago to shift to ebooks, but found students learned better with an actual book in hand rather than on a device.

“When I flip through a book, I get a mental image in the book where I found (the information),” Kahl said.

He said he was not against technology, but said, “there is a good side and a down side for everything.”

The school began with 17 kids in grades kindergarten through third, and currently has 70 students from kindergarten to 12th grade. During the COVID pandemic, the school was up to 99 students, Kahl said, with many parents wanting children to learn in person rather than virtually.

Kahl said the education of students at CTK comes from a Christian perspective and talked about why the school has continued for 25 years.

“It’s a calling for us. We want to give the kids a Christian education … I’m not in education just to educate. I want to help train up more Christian kids to step out in the world to know what they believe and defend what they believe,” Kahl said. “We’ve had teachers interested in Christian education, and not just interested in a salary.”

CTK is also a family affair with Kahl, his wife Cindy and two of his three daughters, Lisa Davis and Emma Keever, teaching at the academy. Keever and his third daughter, Mandy Matthews, both graduated from CTK.

Kahl said Saturday’s open house was a way to “say thank you to the community who has been good to us, but also to get people that have been thinking about a Christian education to say, ‘Here’s what we offer.’ ”

“A lot of schools might do a good job with academics,” he said. “How are you preparing your child to make moral decisions? Are you preparing them for some of the tough questions that life demands of people, or are you doing it for how your kid scores to get into college?”

Kahl said he is not quite as concerned about how many CTK students get into college, adding he wants kids to be prepared to go if they want to go.

“Not everybody wants to (go to college), needs to or can, and that’s OK. I want them to do what God has called them to do. If He wants them to go to college, He’s going to give them the gift they need to do it. He’ll bless them along the way,” Kahl said.

Eventually, he added, the school would like to expand and add a gymnasium and additional classrooms but still make Christ The King available to anyone.

“We’ve tried really hard along the way to make the school affordable for people in Stanly County,” Kahl said. “The people that have supported us financially have never put any strings on (the funds). They said to keep doing the work that God has called you to do, and we’re here after 25 years.”