CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- St. Anthony Catholic School may have closed its doors this spring, but a new private West Side school hopes to fill the gap starting this fall.
Matthew Thornhill II and the Family First Resource Group Inc. obtained a conditional use permit Thursday from the city's zoning board, clearing the way to open what he called a character-based private parochial school in the Rehoboth Cathedral at 915 Main St.
"This is the last hurdle," Thornhill said after the brief meeting of the Board of Zoning Appeals. "We have petitioned the state Department of Education, [state Schools Superintendent Jorea] Marple, and received approval. It allows us to open a school from K to 8."
The Family First Preparatory Academy will serve up to 115 students from kindergarten to eighth grade, he said.
Thornhill, pastor of the New First Missionary Baptist Church in Kanawha City, said he got the idea to start the school after learning St. Anthony's was closing.
"I am a partner and owner in a company called Family First Resource Group," he said. "We have offices in Charleston; Phoenix, Ariz.; and Dallas, Texas. We form strategic partnerships to market products.
"We were approached by the Wheeling Catholic Diocese to try to reduce energy costs at the former St. Anthony School. When I heard the school was closing, I went to several members of the diocese to see if there was anything that could be done."
He said he later got a call from Susan Maddox, the former principal. "They integrated autistic children into the mainstream classroom. It's one of only two programs in the state. She asked if we could provide that program if we opened another school."
Despite the many church connections, the school will be nonreligious, he said.
"It's going to be character-based. As a pastor, I understand the limitations of faith-based." Not every student or family attends church, he said.
Character-based means the school will emphasize the six principles of character, he said, including citizenship, respect and responsibility.