Learn More About One of Long Beach’s Favorite Community Schools, Now Celebrating it’s 50th Year of Providing Christian Education to Local Families!
By John Grossi
Photos by Monique Kuhlman
Imagine the perfect little schoolhouse. Maybe you don’t think they exist anymore… where children run laughing in the playground while their teachers look after them like family. A place where students receive a classical education focused on math, literature, history, and science. And after school, parents look out for each other’s children. A community where everybody knows each other.
That was the school envisioned 50 years ago when Los Altos Grace was founded on Stearns Street between Palo Verde and Studebaker. Today, under its new name, Los Altos Classical Christian Academy, that vision is still being realized.
Andrea Witbeck, a former school parent turned long-time kindergarten teacher and now the Preschool Director, says the more you get to know this school, the more you’re going to like it.
“You know how sometimes you get on the inside of an organization and you kind of see things you wish you didn’t know?” asked Andrea. “When I came on as a staff worker here, it was the total opposite. It was like WOW, this is why the school is so great, because you get to see up close how much this school cares about nurturing love and education in children.”
According to Andrea and Debbie Martin (School Principal), the difference is in the staff. The teachers are there because their love of God and compassion for children means more to them than a public school salary. Some left a public school position to teach at Los Altos Classical Christian Academy, while others are products of the school where they now teach.
The staff at this K-6 school embodies core values such as educating the whole child, teaching classical subjects, and nurturing the children to be good people, not just good students.
“I think the main reasons parents bring their students here is first, because of the quality of education, but also the community they’re going to feel,” says Principal Debbie Martin. “They’re going to know the families of the kids their children choose to play with. And their kids will be known by all of us on staff. We have a staff of 45 at this small school, and we all interact with the students. Each child has his or her own personality, their own strengths and weaknesses, and it’s our purpose to get to know each child and bring out the best in them.”
The Name Change
You may have noticed a different name on the school’s marquee facing Stearns Street. The name Los Altos Classical Christian Academy updates the image of the institute which is now an official curriculum school under the “Hillsdale College” curriculum system.
“I think the two words that you hear in education these days are ‘classical’ versus ‘progressive.’ By changing our name and aligning with the Hillsdale system, we are not doing much that’s different than we were before, but we are being intentional and giving new parents a really good idea of who we are before they even take a tour. I think the biggest part is that this is a school dedicated to teaching children through a biblical world view… that our students not only learn their academics but how the bible plays a part in every area of their life,” says Principal Debbie Martin.
“Our curriculum has always been content-rich and balanced; strong on literature, math, science, and history. We allow students to grow and be well-educated in a general fashion, rather than specific to one area. Here students learn how to be learners. That is the classical education we’ve always abided by here.”
While the K-6th school name has changed, Los Altos Grace Preschool is keeping its name. One of the most popular preschools in East Long Beach, Los Altos Grace Preschool boasts 7 classrooms, with up to 12 children in each class per day. The preschool has molded hundreds of young minds each year for over 50 years, combining preschool and daycare into a learning and playing experience that a young family can tailor to fit its own needs and schedule.
“Every child gets a preschool experience which takes about half the day, but they can also add on lunch, nap, and daycare for as many days a week as they need! Our preschool is open Monday - Friday, from 7am-5:30pm.” says Preschool Director Andrea Witbeck.
Enrollment for Preschool starts in February and fills up fast each year so be sure to call early and schedule a tour! Just like the K-6th school, preschool families are regularly invited to community events at the school so parents can get to know the families of children with whom their own kids are playing.
50 years of impact in a community is definitely something to celebrate! This year on April 14th, the school is inviting all alumni, friends, and those interested in the school to their 50-year anniversary celebration from 2pm-5pm. It will be an Open House showcase with food, drinks, and community!
To get more info about the 50-year anniversary or to schedule a tour of the K-6th Academy, call (562) 430-6983. To schedule a tour of the preschool call (562) 430-6813. The website for both schools is LongBeachChristianSchools.org. Open enrollment for the 2024-2025 school year will begin in February. The school address is 6565 E Stearns St. Long Beach, CA 90815.