IF YOU GO
* What: Community information meeting about Urban Hope Academy
* When: 7 p.m. Thursday
* Where: Fellowship hall, New City Fellowship, 2412 E. Fourth St., Chattanooga
A local group has formed a nonprofit organization and plans to open a Christian elementary school in the inner-city this fall or next.
Urban Hope Academy leaders will spend the next year planning for their new school and a fall 2010 opening if they are unable to secure a facility, faculty or accreditation in the next month.
"The school is opening this fall, but in terms of actually having our first class, we're not sure," said Jerilyn Sanders, head of the school.
Launched by New City Fellowship, a Presbyterian congregation, Urban Hope Academy will focus on providing a low-cost Christian education to urban families who often cannot afford or do not have access to a private school, Ms. Sanders said.
"Our commitment to diversity is in breaking down the barriers of race and denomination," she said. "We're not trying to take away students from Christian schools that serve a particular faith; we're really trying to reach kids whose families would like to give them that kind of education but, for whatever reason, they're not able to."
Christina Swafford, a member of New City Fellowship, plans to send her two oldest children to Urban Hope Academy when it opens. Although she has a backup plan in case it doesn't open this fall, she believes in what the leaders are doing, she said.
"I'm interested in it because New City is a church that looks like heaven -- everybody can come and be accepted," she said. "There's not a school here that's so diverse that's in an African-American community."
Randy Nabors, pastor of New City, said his church has been offering financial aid for inner-city students to attend private schools for years. He hopes the new school will attract wide ethnic and socio-economic diversity. Tuition help will be offered for those who need it, he said.
"We don't want our school to be overwhelmed by only people who can afford it," he said.
The school also has partnered with other local churches, as well as the city's Education, Arts and Culture Department through its Unbroken mentoring and literacy program, Ms. Sanders said.