TENNESSEE TEMPLE TIMELINE
• 1951—Founded as a K-5 Southern Baptist school with 132 students.
• 1971—Expanded to serve middle and high school students.
• 1980—Reached peak with 1,000 students.
• 2002—Won first of three Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association boys’ basketball championships in five years.
• 2011—Announced closing of K-12 academy after some grades have only seven or eight students.
Source: Tennessee Temple Academy
A prominent Southern Baptist school in Chattanooga has decided to shut its doors after six decades, surprising at least one father who doesn’t know where he’ll send his son.
“Whatever school he decides to go to, I’m hoping it will be a good one,” Robert Peck said of his son LaDaris, a 10th-grader and member of the basketball team at Tennessee Temple Academy, which will close at the end of this school year.
“There was never any student fighting or police called like these other schools on the news,” Peck said. “I really hate they’re closing. ”
Economic pressures and a stark drop in enrollment prompted the decision to close the K-12 school.
An 8-3 vote by the school’s board of directors to cease operations will not affect Tennessee Temple University. School officials have decided to keep its “online academy” and a dual enrollment program in which upcoming high school juniors and seniors can take classes at the university.
University President Danny Lovett said the K-12 academy in Highland Park hit its peak in 1980, when 1,000 students were enrolled. Now there are seven or eight students in certain grades and 140 total, he said.
“When it was 1980, Highland Park was a different demographic,” Lovett said. “You had more higher, upper middle-income people.
“All these schools popped up and, with logistics, economics and the gas involved, it wasn’t a surprise when our enrollment went south even more,” he said.
Lovett also said that an increase in “good Christian schools” contributed to the enrollment drop, citing almost 50 such institutions in a 30-mile radius around Tennessee Temple.
Unlike the academy, the university has hit a growth spurt, according to Tennessee Temple’s website. Lovett said enrollment has grown from 400 to 1,200 students in the last three years, calling the university “our forte.”
“God’s really blessing that,” he said.