HAVERHILL — Bradford Christian Academy is on the move — literally.
The private school founded in Haverhill 16 years ago is adding more grades and students, and some classes are moving out of the city, bound for Sal Lupoli's Riverwalk in Lawrence.
Victoria Kennedy, president and head of school at the academy, said the new location in Lawrence offers 20 state-of-the art classrooms, three labs, and space for a library and offices. It formerly housed a Northern Essex Community College program, she said.
"We wanted either land to build on or a current building we could retrofit into a school as the building codes for schools are very particular," Kennedy said. "Then last October we met with Sal (Lupoli) and we shared our story and he shared his. Based on that we made an agreement that worked for them and for us."
NECC officials said they no longer needed the Riverwalk space for the college's adult basic education program. Those programs moved to the college's Lawrence campus.
About 130 Bradford Christian Academy students in grades seven through 12 began their new school year Aug. 25 at Temple Emanu-El in Haverhill, where the academy has leased space for the past four years.
The students can expect to move from the temple to their new Riverwalk home on Nov. 30, academy officials said. All Bradford Christian students are learning in classrooms this year instead of remotely.
"I am very excited for the better work environment and a better place to study," said Ashton Ventola, a high school junior at the academy. "Also, we are getting a weight room, which is pretty awesome and exciting as the workout space will allow me to stay in shape for basketball.
"All around there are nice places to eat, too," Ashton said of the Lawrence location. "I am looking forward to finishing off my first year at BCA at the new campus."
Lydia Swartzentruber, also a high school junior at the academy, called the Riverwalk a "cool location" that will allow students to spread the news of what their school offers.
"I am super excited for more space, the opportunity to have an upgraded school store, and a place to increase school community," she said.
Bradford Christian's main school, located in the former Knipe School building on Oxford Avenue in Haverhill's Ward Hill, houses the academy's lower school, which serves about 85 children in kindergarten through grade six. Kindergarten is new this year to the academy.
The academy is a private, college-preparatory school for boys and girls in kindergarten through grade 12 that is fully accredited by New England Association of Schools and Colleges. The school accepts students of any religious background, but teaches from a Christian faith perspective.
The academy has students from more than 40 communities in New England, and from several countries.
Like other schools, Bradford Christian is following government regulations to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including wearing face masks, social distancing and proper sanitation.
Kennedy said the move to Lupoli's Riverwalk in Lawrence will allow the school to triple in size over time.
"With about double the space, we can now create dedicated rooms for art, exercise and other activities," she said. "This is huge, as we will be moving into our own space where we can form our own identity without limitation. It also gives us permanence and shows the wider community we are on the move, we're here to stay. We're growing and we're excited."
Kennedy said her school offers small class sizes ranging from 12 to 18 students, and sometimes smaller. It also offers the Advanced Placement Capstone Diploma Program.
Bradford Christian opened in 2004 with grades six through nine at the former Knipe School, which it purchased from Haverhill after the Knipe closed as a public school, Kennedy said.
The academy steadily added grades and by 2007 the Knipe building was full. That prompted the need to relocate Bradford Christian's high school grades in 2008 to the Northpoint Bible College campus at 320 S. Main St. in Bradford — the former Bradford College.
In 2016, Bradford Christian's high school moved to classrooms at Temple Emanu-El that were vacated more than a decade ago when Solomon Schechter Day School moved from the temple to Andover. The academy's grades seven and eight were eventually moved to the temple as well.