Adventist education in Detroit was at it’s lowest point soon after the closing of Southfield Junior Academy. It was the summer of ’83 and school was to start in a few weeks. For three years the constituency had been using a rented 18 classroom school for it’s 60 students, known as Westfield Junior Academy.
The principal, Duane Lemon, was leaving and a decision to continue to rent, buy, build or disband was needed. A vote was taken to rent and won by two people. A second vote was then called, since it was so close, this time deciding not to rent. All the churches left that meeting confused; and school was starting within a month.
Each Church then called their own special business meeting. 29 people met up front by the organ and made a decision. Oakwood would start it’s own school. But how could we afford it, and where will it be? We had looked all summer for schools and found none.
We knew through Pastor Yeager that a Baptist church on Pardee would rent us classrooms, but as time ran out we decided to move there. Truck loads of material stored from the Southfield and Westfield schools began to be unloaded until Richard D. ran out saying, “There’s no more room!”
The area we rented had only two classrooms and each was as small as a bedroom. They were not classrooms, only Sunday School rooms with one window. It was so stuffy that the doors needed to be open all the time which made it a little challenging at the same time because the Baptist church also had a day care in the hall next to us.
During Christmas we moved into our second school. This was an old elementary school a few blocks from Ecorse and Telegraph. It was a real school and they would even let us use the gym. We shared the building with Taylor Community Activities and a family of mice. The children and parents who supported us that first year are the foundation that established Oakwood Academy. Had they given up, our school would not have been built.
We found a used four classroom school at the end of Wick Road. It only had a half acre lot but backed up to a large park. The only maintenance costs would be around the building. An offer was quickly given to Allen Park for $55,000. Suddenly the door was slammed again. The building was removed from the market. They would not sell to a church. Even a local Allen Park businessman who was affiliated with the church privately tried to buy it. No sale.
The next summer continued as all other summers had. Drive around look at schools, talk to people, and pray. Then Mary Lou Stickney suddenly found a school on Eastham in Dearborn. It was for sale for about $170,000, but was sold to Mr. Saks before we had a chance to bid.
Saks allowed us to rent the building for the cost of upkeep and property taxes as he explored his development plans for the property. God had met our needs. Just the right size, beautiful location.
Pictures were taken of the school from the air and we could see it was shaped like a cross. There were four classrooms, one at each end, with windows forming points even further. It’s center included a fifth area which gave height to the cross. It was as if it was meant to be a Christian school. And what an ideal area to build a church.
We stayed in Eastham School for four years. Mr. Saks continually tried to get zoning approval to build condominiums, and we continued our attempt to buy the school from him. Still no sale, but we were given assurance that we would have first option. We became complacent. Suddenly the building was sold. The new owner was the City of Dearborn, and they didn’t want us.
We had no where to move! What can we do? Will we be evicted? Would it be on the news? Little children of all races, worshipping on Saturday being kicked out by the City of Dearborn. We needed a plan.
The first plan was to purchase a school in Melvindale near the Town and Country bowling alley. Upon inspection we found this was no more than a large house, and that might need to be torn down.
Our second plan was an eight acre site on Northline road. It was perfect. Tall trees to the rear, wide, with a community college next door and a church across the street. A major freeway exit within a mile. But they wanted $100,000 for the land. Yet Frank K. was able to buy it for $45,000. It was now ours.
The City of Dearborn allowed us to stay in the old Eastham building while our construction would begin. The building committee was given a proposal of construction of four classrooms, a roughed in small gym and offices for $225,000. This was accepted although it would never be given in writing. Suddenly we were faced by a new problem. The city of Taylor wouldn’t let us build. They wanted our land.
Again, we were back to driving around. Frank found our present site on Goddard. A little more money, but time was short. We had to be out. We bought it for $65,000.
Construction began immediately. To finish on time would be close and expenses began to mount; up to twice what we expected. At the same time the Lord was working. When we came to a point where money would be needed within weeks, we were able to sell our church after years of trying.
The week before school was to start we had no complete roof, carpeting, plumbing or electric. Delays were made each week to postpone school until we could receive our final approval by the state fire marshal.
During the second year we were able to build the state and finish the kitchen. We may still need some finishing touches, but you know what? We have a school. We have seen the goal and it is ours.
We opened with over 100 students our first year in Grades 1 – 10. The first week maybe more, we had classes in the Sabbath School room at the old Oakwood church in Melvindale. Then we rented busses and went on field trips because the school wasn’t completed yet. When we finally had occupancy we didn’t have bathrooms we had out houses. It was a work in progress with so many people making huge sacrifices to build this school.
For many years Oakwood Church has given much to make our school possible. As you read in the beginning they should the church to finish building Oakwood Academy. Many hours went into the Academic Excellence program, we had way back then and still are striving to achieve.