PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — After planting its roots in the Fall of 2016 and opening with only a kindergarten class, Southside Christian Academy is still dedicated to serving the area.

Cassie Meiss, the academy’s business director, said the school currently provides private education to 77 students in grades K-5th. She said they’ve been able to add a grade every year since 2016.

“We exist to provide a Christian education so that students who might want it but can’t afford it or for whose parents would like to have that opportunity but just can’t afford it,” Meiss said.

Meiss said this is possible through donations and all the students are basically scholarshipped.

Now with five years under its belt and five more grades added, Meiss said those with the school noticed they were running out of space a couple of years ago.

“Right now, in this building, we only have enough to go through fifth grade, which is currently where we’re at, and we’re very full at this point,” Meiss said. “So we know that we would need to add on classrooms, and we don’t have a gym currently, which we have sorely missed.”

She said this need led to a capital campaign, two years ago, to get more funds, so the school could add on five additional classrooms and a gym. Meiss said thanks to donations, the $2 million project is basically fully funded now.

“We’re very thankful that God has provided in this way,” Meiss said.

She said they broke ground about a month ago and already have the foundation completed. She said they’re working on drainage issues and waiting on the steel for the gym.

Meiss said they’re currently on track to complete the classrooms by next February or March and complete the gym by next May or June. She said the goal is to have everything completed by the Fall of 2022.

Meiss also said 85% of their students are reading at grade level or above and they’re happy to educate and instill Christian values into the future of Peoria.

“We believe that individual change comes through Christ, and we do all we can to share that love of Christ with them,” Meiss said. “We want them to come back and be leaders here at school, here in the community. Doctors, nurses, lawyers, we want the Southside of Peoria to be a good place to live, and we think that these students can help make it that.”