Image Credit: Ryan Turnewitsch

Pandemic Serves to Restore Billings School

It was May of 2020 during the early weeks of the nationwide lockdown. With travel restrictions in place and meetings being held on Zoom, the school board of Central Acres Christian School in Billings, Montana, was faced with one of the hardest decisions they would have to make.

The previous teacher had taken a job at another school. And, with the pandemic, it was almost impossible to interview, hire and move a new teacher to the area. On top of that, no one yet knew if or how COVID-19 would progress. At the time, even national and state officials still didn’t know how to plan for the following school year. 

There was prayer, discussion and even more prayer. The final decision was to close the church school for one year. But that was not the end of the discussion. 

The question was asked, "what could we do with our school if we took one year off?" 

With the school building having had minimal upgrades since the late 1950s, the school board began to dream about what the school could become. They imagined rebuilding the program from the ground up — a complete reboot, rebrand and refresh. 

The board meeting ended with many mixed emotions. No one had ever wanted to see the school close. But, on the other hand, they were all anticipating what God would do.

As with most small schools, constituent churches sacrifice so much to keep their school operational. That is no different for the Billings Church. Understandably, when they heard the recommendation from the school board to take a year off, they weren't thrilled. But they chose to join the school board in prayer and they, too, put their faith in God.

In September of 2020, the work began. The school board chose to dedicate themselves to meeting weekly for planning, dreaming and strategizing the reboot. 

Starting from the ground up, they discussed the school's philosophy, purpose, mission and vision. Then they completed a SWOT analysis to identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Finally, they built a budget, a fundraising plan and a remodeling outline.

The mission of the school is to lead students to know Jesus, love learning, serve others and live healthfully. 

Core values help facilitate this mission. They are:

  •     To be Christ-centered and focused
  •     To provide hands-on learning and place-based education opportunities
  •     To have an emphasis on holistic health (physical, spiritual, emotional)
  •     To create a loving, fun, and safe learning environment
  •     To serve our community

With the mission and core values in mind, a question came up. Does the name "Central Acres" communicate these values? The decision was made to explore a new name for the school. 

The school board's hope was to have a name that not only pointed to nature, but that would also have a local flare. Many names were suggested, researched and  cross-checked with other schools in the area. 

When the name "Trailhead Christian'' was suggested, hearts jumped. It connected with the vision, mission and values. 

Trailheads start a journey that eventually lead to an amazing destination. So, it was decided. Central Acres Christian School would now be known as Trailhead Christian, a Seventh-day Adventist School.

The church rallied together at work bees where they scraped wallpaper, cleaned, scrubbed and painted. The asbestos flooring was abated, bathrooms were completely overhauled, new lighting and carpets were installed and a new nature and outdoor decor theme flowed through the school.

Countless miracles were witnessed during the year. From hiring a teacher, to receiving funds for projects, seeing the church unite around projects and accomplishing the enormous undertaking was a boost for all involved.

Finally, on Aug. 23, 2021, Trailhead Christian School's doors opened to seven students, each welcomed by a new teacher — the miraculous answer to faithful prayers. 

Walking into the school, seeing and hearing students thriving and knowing they're learning about Jesus, makes all of the effort, planning and funding worth the hard work.

The Billings community continues to praise God for all He has done in such a short amount of time.

Explore the school's new website, along with photos of their updated school on the Trailhead Christian School's website,


Featured in: November/December 2021


Stephen Carlile

Billings Church pastor and Montana Conference communications coordinator