A Brief History of Grace
Grace Baptist Academy was founded as a ministry of Grace Baptist Church. In 1978, Dr. Steve Euler assumed the pastorate of a small church in a suburb of Chattanooga. The East Brainerd area, where the church is located, was one of the largest and fastest growing areas of Chattanooga. The church grew quickly and soon the young families expressed a need for a Christian school for their children and the expanding East Brainerd area.
In 1984 the congregation voted to begin a Christian school. Assistant Pastor Dr. Bill Summers was selected to lead the school, and in the fall of 1985, the school opened with a surprising 242 students, well over the benchmark of 150 that had been set. After growing to over 400 students in its second year (1986), the church voted to refinance their properties and building expansion began.
With continued growth, the school added buildings for the high school (1986), an early childhood learning center (1989), and a middle school (1995). The soccer field was also reconstructed, adding length, irrigation and lights (1995). In 1997, Dr. Summers retired and David Patrick took on the leadership of the school. During his tenure, a new elementary facility was built (2007) and facilities were expanded for an ever growing athletic program. A combination baseball, softball area was developed (1999) and football was later added (2004). In 2004, the Screaming Eagle Booster Club started a new project to add a plaza and permanent seating around the football field as well as much needed lighting for all three sports sharing that facility. A concession stand (2008) and a restroom facility (2012) were also added to the plaza area.
After 23 years of annual increases in enrollment, Grace experienced our first ever decrease in 2008. What was initially thought an anomaly turned out to be a precedent as a number of factors converged to precipitate the most difficult period in our history. The economic downturn (2009) was followed by a series of difficult transitions in leadership.
In 2011, Bill Summers returned to serve as the interim administrator. During the next two years of transition, he led some exceptional volunteer efforts including renewed parent involvement. The school board established a search committee to take on a comprehensive process of securing a new Head of School.
In March of 2013, Matthew Pollock agreed to take leadership of Grace Baptist Academy. Bringing 28 years of experience with Christian education in California and Pennsylvania, he joined a veteran faculty and gifted staff, some who had served at Grace since the earliest years of its existence. Since Mr. Pollock’s arrival, the decline of enrollment has been arrested. The school has operated in the black while maintaining a 5% margin in the budget. New ventures have been launched and a renewed focus on high energy, deep student engagement and Biblical integration is being promoted throughout the faculty and staff. A fresh and research-based approach to institutional advancement has been initiated, including development of sustained financial support for long-term effectiveness.
By early 2020, over $500,000 had been raised in a three year period to complete a number of long-standing projects including construction of the Grace Fitness Center and air conditioning our high school gym . In March, the COVID outbreak forced us to go to a Distance Learning program. Then, just before midnight on Easter Sunday, April 12, the campus of Grace Baptist Church and Academy was struck by a category 3 tornado, causing catastrophic damage to the entire campus. The buildings were so damaged that 15 structures (over 148,000 sq. ft.) were lost and now must be rebuilt. Only the Children's Center was able to be completely remodeled and is now reopened serving over 100 children (infants to four-year olds) once again.
In spite of these challenges, the school finished the 2019-20 fiscal year in the black and enrollment held steady. The Academy is now blessed with a new host, Morris Hill Baptist Church. This church embraced the school by offering their facilities for a temporary home during reconstruction of a brand new campus. As a further testament to the progress of recent years, Grace Academy was voted ‘Best of the Best’, finishing second among all private schools in our area. In 2o21, enrollment has increased by 18 percent over the previous year with more and more prospective families expressing their interest.
After 35 years of serving families in the greater Chattanooga area on the corner of Shallowford and Jenkins, a complete transformation of the campus is now underway with a new master plan for both buildings and grounds being designed and construction beginning literally "from scratch".
Working together to bring transformation to our campus has brought changes in perspective to our entire Grace community. This is evident in our students, parents, and alumni, many of whom still live in the area. The conversation has moved from “can anything be done?” to “what’s next?” With God’s help, proper direction and the full engagement of the Grace community as well as external supporters, the answer to that question is “ANYTHING"!