Petra Academy: Sense of Community Fuels Growth

Petra Academy, a classical Christian school in Bozeman, Mont. is experiencing growth that mirrors other Christian schools around the country. Enhancements to athletics and community service are just part of the school’s appeal for families looking for classical Christian education.

“We increased from 175 students in the spring of 2020 to 224 this fall,” Justice Kerr, Head of School, told The Lion. Kerr questioned if the increase would be a short-lived effect of COVID forcing public schools online. However, his doubt was quickly eliminated.  “I wondered if we would retain the numbers, but those students have stuck with us.”

Montana’s largest and oldest classical school, Petra was established in 1995 by families who were homeschooling, but were inspired by the classical movement in Christian education—a model that establishes a biblical worldview and incorporates teaching based on the phases of student development.

Posted by Petra Academy on Saturday, August 12, 2017

Today, Petra Academy enrolls students in preschool through 12th grade and remains true to those beginnings, outlining its goals to equip students with the tools to observe humbly, think logically, and articulate charitably.

“No student is neutral in the classroom. They are responsible to the community, and that includes the community within their classroom,” said Kerr. “Petra really embodies learning, not just going through the motions.” 

At Petra, academics focus on language arts, literature, mathematics, science, history, fine arts and biblical studies. “Our approach is to emphasize ‘soul-forming’ education,” said Kerr. “It’s not just subject classes and mastering content. Through this learning you come to see the way God created the world.”

With the growth in enrollment, the school’s athletics programs expanded this year to include varsity girls soccer. The boys team, part of the Montana Christian Athletic Association, won the state title earlier this month. Kerr added community service days to the school calendar to encourage students to get involved with local volunteer work.

The Griffins Varsity Girls Soccer team finished its inaugural season undefeated and raising a tournament trophy: Champions of the Fall Fútbol Classic, hosted by Stillwater Christian School up in Kalispell.

Posted by Petra Academy on Monday, October 18, 2021

While academics, athletics, and community service are key pieces of the Petra experience, the number one strength listed by parents in the school’s annual survey is the sense of community within the school. 

“That’s what they love about Petra, and that’s one of our core values,” said Kerr. “Our older students love that they can interact with younger students—there is lots of crossover in the school. This gives secondary students the opportunity to demonstrate leadership and discipleship. These interactions strengthen that feeling of community.”

The sense of community has reaped rewards for Petra in other ways. “I’ve hired three alumni who have returned to be part of our staff,” said Kerr. “They expressed that their experience here and their relationships with teachers made them want to give back. Our own students want to come back and be a part of us, and that means something.”