• The community gathered last Sunday to celebrate a ribbon cutting ceremony for TCA Upper School.

On Jan. 3, 2017, an envelope arrived at Tipton Christian Academy via registered mail.

School officials knew it contained a sizeable check from a donor, but they weren’t sure just how sizeable.

Turns out it was a $1.5-million check and the donor, who asked to remain anonymous, had very specific instructions for how the money was to be used: build a new school building.

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Last Sunday, three years and 23 days after that check arrived, a ribbon cutting ceremony was held to celebrate the brand new 17,000-square foot, $4 million TCA Upper School.

The school, which serves 85 students in grades six through 12, opened last August when school started, but school officials waited until everything was completely finished to celebrate.

It’s a huge step as the Covington school, which is a ministry of First Baptist Church, continues to grow.

In May, Julie Ann Lofton and Nick Palmer will become the first seniors to graduate from TCA and the classes below them are much larger. There are 10 juniors, seven sophomores and 15 freshmen and 48 students in grades six through eight.  The middle and elementary schools are even bigger.

With 20 sixth-graders coming to the upper school next year, enrollment is expected to be more than 100 for 2020-21. The entire school’s enrollment has grown from 256 in 2017 to 300 today.

Before this building was constructed, all of TCA’s students were packed into the church.

“The walls were swelling,” said Kendra Parr, the head of marketing and admissions at TCA. “They love having their own space. It was something special sharing the campus and they lose that interaction (with younger students), but I really feel like they needed to own the school and own their building. I think it’s really boosted student morale. I think they’re proud of it.”

“I think they feel great about what they have,” said Chuck Smith, the school’s principal.

The new building includes eight classrooms, offices, a multi-purpose media room and a cafeteria/chapel.  There is already a blueprint to add on to the building and plans for an athletic complex to be constructed next to the school.

TCA is now a member of the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association, the state’s governing body for high school sports. Student-athletes from the school have already competed in swimming, track and cross country and there are plans to field teams in most other sports (except football) in the very near future.

The upper school is located high atop a hill, just west of the church.

“We call it the hill,” Parr said. “You can see the lake and the cross. It’s a nice view. Church members really like it.”

Smith said TCA is one of the few private schools in the state that has seen its enrollment increase.

“Most private schools are going down in enrollment, but we’re growing,” he said. “These are exciting days up on the hill and down the hill.”

Smith also said the school’s 95 percent re-enrollment rate is a great sign for the future.

“The standard is 80-85 percent for private schools. Ninety is considered great for a private school. Our kids enroll here and they stay.”

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