When Holly Breckel (formerly Holly Roed, FLBC Class of 97), her husband Jason, and their young children moved back to northern Minnesota to live in the house where she grew up, they were looking forward to engaging in the community they remembered fondly. Holly describes the decision to send their kids to the public school as a “no brainer.” Class sizes were small, teachers and staff were familiar, and they knew there were opportunities for parents to have a say in their children’s education. Holly went on to work for five years as a school nurse. Jason, also from the area, would serve a five-year term on the school board. Years passed without concern.
With headlines in the national media highlighting the secular worldview seeping into the public schools, Holly was keeping a finger on the pulse of local policies.
“I was starting to hear inklings, but I really thought it’s not going to hit here,” said Holly. “McIntosh has a population of 600 people, and if you need three towns to make a school, there is not a lot of people.”
Things changed in the spring of 2021. Students had a scheduled day off, and Holly learned from a friend who taught at the school that it was to allow teachers to attend transgender training. The training would be led by an attorney, a biological male who identifies as a female, who would give guidance in dealing with transgender students. After initially chalking this up to state-required sensitivity training, she found out it was more than just a legal hoop. Holly’s son, who was 15 at the time, confirmed that there was a girl who recently started using the boy’s restroom. Holly knew she had to do something to voice her concerns, not only for her own kids, but for all the students at the school.
“I was also concerned for the safety of this young girl,” said Holly. “No one is standing up for this girl saying we need to keep you safe.”
She gathered other parents who came to the school board asking them to better ensure the safety of students. Despite nearly 100 people showing disapproval of the schools’ plan to simply remodel the spaces for greater privacy while still allowing shared use, the board unanimously voted to move forward. This was not the answer for which they had hoped.
Holly and Jason made the difficult choice to consider alternative schooling for their older children, pulling them away from friends and their local community.
“I really felt like I was breaking not only my heart but their heart … I felt like they were the sacrificial lamb,” said Holly as she described the emotions that came with this decision.
Holly and her husband didn’t feel called to homeschool their children, so the first course of action was to contact other school districts in the area. When they inquired about their restroom use policies, these schools described a similar approach due to expectations from the state.
“I really had never thought of private Christian school before because I truly believed my kids should be the salt and the light,” said Holly about their initial reluctance to consider a Christian school. “It’s my job and my churches job to teach them about Jesus.”
With options running out, Holly and Jason visited FHL Academy, a Christian school in Bagley, a town 30 miles away. Here they met Vanessa Jodock, dean of students. Vanessa described FHL’s journey, starting with 12 students in 2016 to a current population of 70+ students in kindergarten through 11th grade. The Breckels were interested in the school’s faith-based education model but wished there could be a similar option in the community they felt called to serve. Yet the idea of starting something new seemed out of reach, even after Vanessa offered to help them establish a sister school in their hometown.
Then in the early summer months of 2021, Holly began to see the Lord’s hand behind a series of open doors. The watershed moment came when they received a call from the owner of the old school building in Erskine, Minn. Randy Cook had no children but was sympathetic to the cause. He had been using part of the building for his recycling business but decided to gift the other half of the facility to the fledgling effort.
With these pieces in place, Jason, Holly, and another couple from the community have been hard at work preparing for Freedom Christian Academy (FCA) to launch this fall. The school secured accreditation through its connection to the Christian school in Bagley but is financially independent. The old school building in Erskine is receiving necessary updates and fresh paint. The seven classrooms and gymnasium will serve an anticipated student body of 15, likely students in kindergarten through sixth grade, in its inaugural school year. The team has also employed a dean of students and will hire two or three additional teachers as enrollment numbers and grade levels are confirmed for the fall. The new school has met with an overall positive reception in the church and community meetings the Breckels have used to spread the word and raise support.
The goal of FCA is to enable students to learn that all truth stems from God’s Word. The school is founded on the core belief that each child is a unique creation of God and that parents have the primary responsibility to educate their children. Holly and the other founders see FCA as a service to parents who seek to live up to that duty.
Holly reflects on the moments in her life that have prepared her for this journey. “I think my time at Bible school helped solidify the foundation of faith that started with my parents and my home church. Having an understanding of the Bible and its inerrancy is what has propelled us as a group to push for standing up for what is right for the sake of our children.”
Holly encourages anyone that would benefit from the education offered at FCA to reach out or find them online at fcaerskine.org.
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