The local nonprofit organization Bible in the Schools presented Hamilton County Schools officials with a check for more than $1 million Monday to foot the cost of teaching Bible history electives last year.
For more than nine decades, the local nonprofit has contributed to the school system. This latest donation reimburses 100 percent of the cost of Hamilton County Schools offering the Bible history elective, which more than 3,700 students in grades 6-12 participated in last year, according to enrollment data.
The donation covers teacher salaries, benefits, taxes, teacher professional development training, classroom materials, and textbooks — the Bible — to all participating schools, according to a news release from Bible in the Schools.
Bryan Johnson, superintendent of Hamilton County Schools, said he is grateful for those in the community who have provided funding for the elective.
"This gift empowered [the Hamilton County Department of Education] to hire 18 qualified and certified Bible History teachers in the 2016-2017 school year. This enriched 20 middle and high schools with key mentors and role models for students, reduced student-teacher ratios, and expanded academic course offerings — all things that continue to increase the quality of public education in Hamilton County," Johnson said in a statement.
Cathy Scott, president of Bible in the Schools, said she's glad the organization can make the elective possible, and the donation represents thousands of individuals and groups who understand the value of Bible history electives.
"The benefits of studying Bible History go beyond simply improving reading comprehension, increasing vocabulary, and growing cultural literacy; it often fosters healthier decisions, specifically related to student conduct and relationships," Scott said in a statement. "In addition, Bible History encourages divergent and critical thinking as students wrestle with essential questions around complex text."
This school year, the Bible in history elective will be offered in 23 schools, meaning that nearly 80 percent of Hamilton County's middle and high school students have access to the course.
Schools offering Bible History include: Brainerd High School, Brown Middle School, Central High School, Dalewood Middle School, East Hamilton School, East Lake Academy, East Ridge High School, East Ridge Middle School, Hixson High School, Hixson Middle School, The Howard School, Hunter Middle School, Ivy Academy Chattanooga, Loftis Middle School, Ooltewah High School, Ooltewah Middle School, Red Bank High School, Red Bank Middle School, Sale Creek Middle/High School, Signal Mountain Middle/High School, Soddy Daisy High School, Soddy Daisy Middle School and Tyner Academy.
Courses offered are: Genesis (taught in 6th), Exodus (7th), Life of Jesus (8th), Old Testament Survey and New Testament Survey (9th-12th).
This story was updated Aug. 15 at 11:40 p.m.