In six years, Arma Dei Academy has grown from six students housed in the basement of a local church to 200 students in grades K-8. The private classical Christian school campus sits off Wildcat Reserve Parkway, southeast of Thunderridge High School.

Aug. 24 marked the beginning of the new school year and the expansion of the school’s second building, which houses grades 5-8. The existing facility, shared with Living Way Fellowship Church, will continue to serve grades K-4.

The new and improved 17,500-square-foot, two-story facility has an innovative science lab, art and music rooms and a dining area.

Looking back, Arma Dei Academy “was like a one room schoolhouse,” said Jen Wenger, a member of one of the first families and the director of the grammar school, comprising grades fifth through eighth. “We have kids whose memories are literally sitting on a picnic blanket eating lunch together.”

The school received the land for the expansion as a donation. A capital campaign funded the $5 million project, which was completed in less than a year. Wayner Construction built the addition, increasing the school’s capacity by 144 students, according to Stephen Taylor, head of school.

The school’s course of study emphasizes biblical teachings. Students learn Latin and study math, science, history and classical literature, among other subjects. Class sizes at Arma Dei Academy average 16 kids to one teacher.

“We are using time-tested and proven curriculum that has withstood millennia,” Taylor said. “This `new’ way of teaching builds on the academic rigor of generations past and strives to develop future leaders that are well informed, thoughtful and gracious.”