Gateway Legacy Christian Academy, which has offered boarding for high school students in Granite City, has applied for a zoning variance to have students live in the women’s dormitory at Lindenwood University-Belleville, which is discontinuing its undergraduate program in May.
Gateway, which is affiliated with Gateway Family Church in Glen Carbon, said it would lease the women’s dorm from Lindenwood, according to an application for a variance request from the city of Belleville.
A spokesman for Lindenwood University on Wednesday declined to comment on the application but said school officials expect to speak to the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals on July 25.
A representative from Gateway could not be reached for comment about details on the plan, such as how many Gateway students would move to Belleville and when would they move there.
Gateway’s website says it is a college preparatory academy for students from kindergarten to 12th grade and that it hosts over 100 international students from 38 countries.
Gateway said it is requesting a variance because the city’s code calls for college students to live in dorms but in this case, it would be high school students.
“Applicant requests a variance from the definition of ‘student’ because its students who will be housed in the dormitory are students of an accredited secondary education school rather than students of a university, college, community college or technical college,” the application states.
The Belleville Zoning Board of Appeals typically hears zoning variance requests and then forwards a recommendation to the City Council, which has the final say on whether the request is granted.
The board usually is scheduled to meet on the fourth Thursday of each month but the agenda for the July 25 meeting has not been released.
Mayor Mark Eckert said residents who raised questions about Gateway’s request have been told to attend the Zoning Board of Appeals meeting.
“I have some questions myself how this might fit,” Eckert said. “We certainly are going to be open-minded.
“I have some concerns. We’ll have to listen to them and hear them out. I think having high school students blending into a college university setting is certainly something that’s going to take some convincing to everybody that that can be managed and safe.”
Eckert said Gateway hopes to have this plan implemented by Sept. 1.
Eckert said he has met with John Porter, the new Lindenwood president who started on July 1.
“He was truly interested in listening,” Eckert said.
However, Eckert said when Porter was asked about Lindenwood reconsidering the decision to close the undergraduate program, Porter said the board had ruled on that matter.
Porter also told Eckert that Lindenwood would keep the night school running until at least 2023.
Lindenwood built the women’s dorm in 2013 at 100 S. 23rd St. At that time, the school said it cost about $4 million to build and could house 180 students.
Lindenwood announced on May 13 that it would end its daytime undergraduate program after the 2019-20 school year and Belleville community leaders and residents were concerned about the void created by Lindenwood downsizing. The college has said it is losing $2.5 million to $3 million a year at the Belleville campus.
Gateway’s website says it offers a flexible schedule for students.
“Our new format provides flexibility as students can arrive at their own time. Classes will be open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Monday through Friday,” according to the school’s website.
“Fluid classrooms will give students the ability to spend as long as they need in any one core subject classroom.”
The school was founded by Greg and Melissa Morrison, according to the school’s website.
Lindenwood, which is based in St. Charles, Mo., established the Belleville campus in 2003 with night classes in the former Belleville West High School at 2600 W. Main St. and later added undergraduate classes and sports teams.
Gateway Legacy Christian Academy participates in the National Christian School Athletic Association and recently won the association’s national championship for soccer and boys track. The girls track team finished second in the nation.