Julie, Logan and Mason Blue

_y3a1399When Julie Blue agreed to be a foster parent to brothers Logan and Mason, she knew she wanted to send them to a high-performing school.

Blue attended a private elementary school as a child and later worked as a private school P.E. coach after a decade employed by Broward County public schools.

A private education with individual instruction and a safe environment seemed the best fit for the boys, who had been abused and neglected by their biological family before social workers took custody.

Today, the children are legally Blue’s sons and enrolled in Calvary Christian Academy, a private pre-K-12 school in Fort Lauderdale. Logan is a third-grader catching up quickly with his peers and Mason is thriving in a pre-K 4 class.

“To be able to give them this same opportunity is a gift,’’ said Blue, a single parent who relies on tuition assistance from the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program administered by Step Up For Students. “I would not be able to send them to this school without it.’’

Logan, who just turned 10, received a full scholarship this year. The award covers roughly half of the academy’s $8,500 annual tuition plus fees. Blue pays about $6,500 for Mason, 4, who will become a Step Up scholar next school year when he is a kindergartner.

The private school price tag is an adjustment, said Blue, a swim school operator. She works harder growing her business, rarely eats out, rents movies instead of going to the theater and shops with coupons.

“It’s a sacrifice,’’ she said, “but it doesn’t feel like one when you see the fruits of your labor.’’

Calvary Christian Academy’s sprawling 75-acre campus features eight buildings, including a state-of-the-art theater, two gymnasiums, a skate ramp, and a three-star restaurant and cafeteria. The four-story school building boasts a rigorous college-preparatory program, modern classrooms, science labs, two media centers and nine computer labs.

In addition to the core classes, such as history, English, reading and math, there are art, music, P.E., drama, Spanish and religious courses among other extracurricular offerings. Middle and high school students can take dual enrollment and Advanced Placement courses to earn college credit. Classes are small with teachers and classroom aides able to focus lessons on special learning concerns.

“They are really able to cater to Logan’s needs,’’ said Blue, whose son attended school sporadically and was held back a grade before he came to live with her.

School officials are willing to do whatever it takes to help Logan succeed, she said.

Blue wanted to enroll Logan into the fourth grade this year, so he would be the same age as his classmates. He passed the admissions test, but school administrators had concerns.

He was ready academically, Blue said, but after a week it was clear he wasn’t ready socially or emotionally.

“I fought tooth and nail to get him into the fourth grade,’’ said Blue, who felt empowered because the academy was willing to give it a try. “They wouldn’t even do that in a public school.’’

Now, back in third grade, Logan’s confidence is soaring.

“I know that Logan is in the perfect place for him,’’ said Karla Euell, a certified educator and teaching assistant at the academy who helps Logan work on improving organizational skills, handwriting and fine motor skills.

“Here at Calvary Christian Academy, Logan is going to be encouraged and cared for,’’ Euell said. “Our hopes for Logan are that he will always be a student who is motivated to learn throughout his academic experience.’’

So far, so good. Logan describes his Calvary experience as “extra education.’’

“There are good teachers here and it’s a Christian school,’’ he said. “We have Bible study almost every day. That’s my favorite thing.’’

He also likes soccer, baseball and the film school at his school – “They have a lot to offer,’’ the budding actor and/or producer said.

For his mom, it’s comforting knowing how happy her son is today, especially when she only can imagine how life was before her and Calvary Christian Academy.

“He’s where he needs to be,’’ Blue said.

Calvary Christian Academy is a private Christian school in Fort Lauderdale that is affiliated with Calvary Chapel Church. Of the 1,653 students in K-12, about 230 are Step Up scholars. Students take an admissions exam and numerous standardized tests, including the national Terra Nova assessment to measure annual learning gains. The school offers a college preparatory curriculum, with dual enrollment and Advance Placement programs. The academy is accredited by the SACS (Southern Association of Colleges & Schools) and ACSI (Association of Christian Schools International), and has received the Florida Department of Children & Families’ Gold Seal of Quality of Care award.[/x_text]

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