All thy children shall be taught of the Lord, and great shall be the peace of thy children.
Isaiah 54:13 KJV
The Work Begins
Early in the history of Seventh-day Adventists, there was strong interest in the training and preparation of children and young adults to become workers who loved God and were preparing to help spread the Gospel to others. This led to the development of the Seventh-day Adventist Educational Society incorporated March 11, 1874, which became the Educational Department in 1902. In 1887, the establishment of local or church schools was recommended by the Educational Society and in 1894, Mrs. E. G. White wrote that she saw “this country dotted over with Seventh-day Adventist schoolhouses” (Review, 1924).
The School Year
Early schools often met for a short time each year, some as little as three to four months, others for six months. Not only was the country largely agricultural and children were needed at home to help with farm and field work, but many of the small churches could not support a school for longer than three to four months (McConnell, 1906). School years gradually lengthened but it wasn’t until July 28, 1944, that our conference voted to adopt a 180-day school year, or forty weeks. This plan became effective for the 1944-1945 school year and is still in effect today (Minutes, 1944).
First Arkansas Schools
At the conference constituency meeting in Clarksville, Arkansas, in August, 1893, the conference president, J. M. Rees, made an appeal for the establishment of a conference school at Springdale, Arkansas. Others spoke in favor of it and it was voted for the Conference Committee to make the proper arrangements for establishing the school (Rees, 1893). As a result, a ten-grade school was started in the Springdale church in 1896 (Field, 1902). Within a short time, a separate facility was built for the school. In 1902, a second Arkansas church school was started in Butterfield, four miles from Malvern, with Katie Beeler as the teacher (Beeler, 1928). To encourage Christian education, V. B. Watts was appointed to be the church school superintendent in 1904 (Heermann, 1904).
First Louisiana Schools
In the late 1800s, as the church began to promote Christian education, the first church school in Louisiana was organized in Marthaville in 1899, two years before Louisiana was a conference, with Mrs. C. F. Dart as the teacher (Horton, 1899). The second church school in Louisiana was Shreveport Junior Academy, started in 1904 (Hancock, 1980). Other early Louisiana schools soon followed in Welsh and New Orleans (Horton, 1899).
First Teachers’ Institute
The first teachers’ institute was held in September 1905, in Fayetteville, Arkansas (Watts, 1905). Arkansas schools operating that year were in Afton, Indian Territory (now Ketchum, Oklahoma) (Record, 1909), Gravette, Gentry, Decatur, Black Rock, and Mena (Beeler, 1996), and Louisiana schools were Jennings, Hope Villa, Shreveport, and Marthaville.
Schools Currently in Operation
Many more schools opened and closed over the years. In September 1976 an explosion in Christian Education began in our conference. The number of schools went from eighteen to thirty-six in a five year period (St. John, 1980). The 1984-1985 school year opened with a record forty-one schools (Bendall, 1983). As of 2019, the Arkansas-Louisiana Conference sponsors schools in Louisiana, located in Shreveport, Baton Rouge, and New Orleans, and in Arkansas, located in Bentonville, Bonnerdale, Harrison, Hot Springs, Little Rock, Gentry, Springdale, and Umpire. Ozark Adventist Academy, in Gentry is the the only Seventh-day Adventist boarding academy in the Arkansas-Louisiana Conference and in the Southwestern Union. It is operated by the conference and serves grades nine through twelve.
Schools: Past and Present
Schools are listed by general location which may not reflect the school’s actual name. This list does not include every school that has operated in our conference.
(1909, Aug. 31). Southwestern Union Record, p. 3.
(1924, Sep. 18). Adventist Review Anniversary Edition, p. 62.
(1944, Jul. 28). Executive Committee Minutes. Shreveport, LA: Arkansas-Louisiana Conference of SDA.
Beeler, K. M. (1928, Jan. 5). Southwestern Union Record, p. 2.
Bendall, Richard. (1983, Sep. 15). Ibid., p. 16C.
Field, M. A. (1902, Dec. 8). Ibid., p. 1.
Hancock, J. Wayne. (1980, Nov. 13). Ibid., p. 12E.
Heermann, F. E. (1904, Sep. 12). Ibid., p. 2.
Horton, S. B. (1899, Nov. 7). Review and Herald, p. 725.
McConnell, Jessie. (1906, Apr. 24). Southwestern Union Record, p. 3.
Rees, J. M. (1893, Oct. 24). Review and Herald, p. 672.
St. John, Anthony. (1980, Sep. 18). Southwestern Union Record, p. 12E.
Watts, V. B. (1905, Oct. 3). Ibid., p. 3.
Ibid., (1905, Jan. 17). p. 2.