A Short History of CCA
By Rob Van Ness & Steve Kennedy
The story of CCA is the story of Chapelgate Presbyterian Church. The church began in 1894 through the vision and ministry of four women who met together over a laundromat in Baltimore City. A founding school board member, Donald Fisher, was married to Doris Fisher, granddaughter of one of those women, providing a living link between the founding of the church and founding of the school nearly a century later.
Sign on one of the original Chapelgate Presbyterian Church buildings in Baltimore City
As early as the 1950’s, the church began praying for a Christian School. Dramatic events unfolded over the following years including the need to literally walk away from a church building and grounds over Scriptural inerrancy and other important issues. For a period of several years, the congregation met in public schools and operated out of commercial office space. The congregation doubled during what could be called the “Nomadic Years” at Chapelgate. Ultimately, the church joined other congregations in forming a new denomination- the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA).
While worshipping in the St. John’s Lane church, a committee was formed to discuss the formation of a Christian school. A feasibility study indicated that the greatest need in our region was for a Christian high school. There were no other Christian high schools at that time in Howard County. One of Chapelgate’s sister churches, Liberty Reformed Presbyterian Church in Baltimore County, had a Christian school for students in grades K-5 just fifteen minutes from Chapelgate’s newly purchased land. After further study and a formal survey, the committee decided to begin a school with grades six to nine, adding grades ten to twelve in successive years. CCA would be the only Christian high school in Central Maryland approaching Christian education from the reformed perspective.
A ground breaking ceremony was held in September 1989, launching a substantial building project of over 50,000 square feet. Before moving into the building at 2600 Marriottsville Road, Ron Steel, the new Senior Pastor at Chapelgate preached a sermon on the value of Christian education. Enthusiasm for the school was rapidly building and with the Senior Pastor leading the charge, momentum continued to grow.
Construction on the first building circa 1990
The founding School Committee continued to plan for the Academy and hired Dr. James DiVirgilio, a member of the congregation and former educational leader in Howard County, to serve as the first Headmaster. The School Committee became the CCA School Board. Mr. Oliver Dearden & Mrs. Pat Tracey, board members from Liberty Christian School were asked to join the Board as consultants. Other members serving on the first School Board at CCA included: Dr. Charlie Gault (president), Don Fisher (secretary), Kathy Durant, Ron Steel (Ex Officio), Fred Muhl and Jeanette Ireland.
The late Dr. James Divirgilio, founding Headmaster of CCA
In August 1991, under the leadership of Dr. DiVirgilio, Chapelgate Christian Academy opened its doors to seventy-eight students in grades six through nine. There were several familiar faces amongst those pioneers. Mrs. Lorie Flynn taught part-time Spanish, Mr. Randy Lindauere taught various classes including history, Mrs. Otto, who retired just last year served as a teacher and Mrs. Kathy Durant, who had been a member of the School Committee was on the School Board.
Due to health issues Dr. DeVirgilio needed to step down as Headmaster after the first year so a new leader was needed for the Academy. Mr. Rob Van Ness accepted that role in May 1992. According to Mr. Van Ness, “Without question, it was the most affirming time in my spiritual journey as it relates to knowing God’s specific will for my life. That strong sense of call has sustained me over the past twenty four years. I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to have been a vital part of growing CCA. My children were blessed by their experience in the Academy and continue to enjoy life-long friendships with their classmates. I am grateful that their experience is also the experience of many other alumni”.
Year two saw a doubling in enrollment to 150. Tenth grade was added that year with eleventh & twelfth being added in the following two years. The spring of 1995 saw a couple of historic moments for CCA. A second wing of 42,000 square feet was constructed. This wing included the cafeteria and many more classrooms. Later that spring we had our first high school graduation. Dr. Ben Carson, gave the commencement address punctuating a very important time in the life of Chapelgate Christian Academy.
The past 25 years have seen growth in all areas in the depth and breadth of the overall school program. In 2015-2016, CCA has over 370 students representing seven counties in Central Maryland and Baltimore City. CCA also has a respected and well-established program for international students. In 2013, a preschool was established for children ages 2, 3 & 4. Much like the 6-12 program, it began small- with 17 students and doubled in two years to 35. The scope of CCA will grow once again in the fall of 2016 to include a 5 year old Kindergarten program.
Without question, the story of CCA is one of God’s faithfulness to His people. Both the school and the church have clearly seen the hand of God at work over the past 112 years. It will be exciting to see what God has planned for the next 25 years and beyond at Chapelgate Christian Academy!
Friends & family celebrating at our recent 25th Anniversary Gala
Mr. Rob Van Ness, Headmaster, who is in his 24th year of service to the Academy
Proclamation by Howard County Executive Alan Kittleman which reads in part, “Chapelgate is an important part of the overall educational system for which Howard County is often recognized.” Senator Gail Bates & Governor Larry Hogan also sent their congratulations along to CCA on the occasion of our 25th anniversary