No. This high school is not associated with the Diocese of Orlando. It is an independent, parent-led high school grounded in the Catholic faith.
When dreaming of starting this school, the very first action we took was to reach out to the Bishop of the Diocese of Orlando, to seek his blessing on the project. The Bishop sent a short response saying he was very happy with the existing diocesan Catholic schools and thus he could not offer his blessing or support for Chesterton Academy at this time. No further reasons were given.
In light of the Bishop's decision, which we respect, we cannot formally identify as a Catholic school in the Diocese of Orlando. This is in accordance with canon law. According to canon 803, “Even if [a school] is, in fact, Catholic, no school is to bear the name Catholic school without the consent of competent ecclesiastical authority.” In our case, that authority is the Bishop of Orlando, and since we don’t have his consent, we cannot call ourselves a Catholic school at this time.
However, the school is deeply rooted in the Catholic faith. Everyone involved in this school is a faithful Catholic. Each founding parent and member of the Board of Directors is an active member of a parish within the Diocese of Orlando. Every teacher, administrator, and Board member takes an Oath of Fidelity to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church.
Chesterton Academy operates fully within the Catholic intellectual tradition, given our faithful Catholic faculty and thoroughly Catholic curriculum.
(It's also worth noting that the Chesterton Schools Network, the umbrella organization which supports our school, is governed by a canonically recognized Private Association of the Faithful, which was approved by Archbishop Bernard Hebda of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, MN. So, the umbrella organization over us does have official canonical support.)
Yes. We do require four years of Catholic theology, the curriculum is infused with Catholic thought, and all students are required to participate in school events, including Mass, retreats, and other prayer services. However, all are welcome to attend!
The Florida Department of Education does not accredit, regulate, approve, or license K-12 private schools. It only registers them, acknowledging that the school is a legitimate private school.
Chesterton Academy of Orlando has gone through this process and has been approved by the State of Florida's Department of Education as a registered private school.
Schools are then often accredited by outside accrediting agencies. We're not accredited yet, but the Chesterton Schools Network guides its member schools through a joint accreditation and recognition process with the National Association of Private Catholic and Independent Schools (NAPCIS) and the Cardinal Newman Society.
Yes. The tradition of school uniforms goes back to Medieval times when caps and gowns were required at universities. All students, regardless of background, would dress alike as an outward sign of their dedication to the shared task of learning together within the university community.
From the very beginning, school uniforms have been in support of three goals: modesty, professionalism, and community (or school spirit). Our uniform policy aims at the same three goals.
Chesterton Academy is ultimately a parent-led school. We agree with Catholic teaching that parents should be the primary educators of their children, whether directly or indirectly. If that responsibility is shared with teachers, the teachers always act in loco parentis (“in the place of the parent”), meaning on behalf of the parents rather than supplanting them (or, worse, acting in opposition).
Following this philosophy, the school is governed by a Board of Directors, primarily composed of parents of Chesterton Academy students along with other educators and local community leaders.
The Board oversees a Headmaster who runs the day-to-day operations of the school and who in turn oversees a team of teachers and staff.
Parents not on the Board still have opportunities to share regular input, suggestions, and concerns with the Board and take an active role in shaping the culture of the school.
Our campus is centrally located in the Orange/Seminole county area, in Winter Park, northeast of Downtown Orlando. The campus resides near the corner of 436 and Aloma.
The address is:
2025 State Road 436, Winter Park, FL 32792
It is the former campus of The Geneva School, a classical K-12 Christian school.
Chesterton Academy will be sharing this campus with Highlands Latin, a thriving classical Christian school that currently serves grades K-8.
Learn more about the location and view photos on our Location page.
The campus includes several classrooms, a library, and dedicated spaces for science, art, and music. Find more details and photos here:
Chesterton Academy of Orlando is part of the Chesterton Schools Network, a collection of over 50 classical high schools.
In 2007, Dale Ahlquist and Tom Bengtson co-founded the first Chesterton Academy high school in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Each had young families and were seeking an alternative to the existing high school options available to them.
The two men had a simple mission: to offer a classical, integrated high school education that was faithful to the Catholic Church and affordable for families of average means.
Looking to G.K. Chesterton as the model for a complete thinker and modern defender of the faith, they named the school Chesterton Academy. Inspired by Pope Saint John Paul II, they took as their motto Cultura Vitae, the culture of life.
After the success of this school, families began reaching out, asking to replicate the successful model in their own area. Soon, Chesterton Academies began opening across America.
Today, there are 50 high schools operating within the Chesterton Schools Network in the U.S. and Canada, with with several additional schools slated to open soon.
(New Chesterton Academy high schools have also opened in Italy, Sierra Leone, and Iraq.)
With over 1,000 graduates across Network schools, the Chesterton Academy model is proven and effective at forming smart, joyful, and holy young men and women.
Classical education teaches students how to learn and how to think, rather than just regurgitate information, excel on standardized tests, prepare for college, or train for a job, as good as those things are.
It balances a focus on math and science with strong emphases on liberal arts, including literature, philosophy, Latin, and the fine arts (e.g., drama, choir, painting.)
Ultimately, the goal of classical education is to help students recognize the true, imitate the good, and adore the beautiful. In doing so, they will fall in love with the source of all truth, goodness, and beauty—God himself.
What we call "classical" education everyone just called "education" until about 150 years ago. It was the way everybody was educated for centuries, producing countless great leaders, inventors, scientists, writers, philosophers, theologians, physicians, lawyers, artists, and musicians.
Classical education never really disappeared, but it did diminish starting around 1900 with the advent of progressive education. This new model, rather than producing good people, focused more on producing good workers for the economy, shifting the way we educate our children into more of a factory model. Today's mainstream schools are framed around developing the skills needed to get into college and secure a good job. At the risk of oversimplifying, education has become the means to becoming a productive worker.
The classical model is much different. Its focus is less on what a student will do, which college they will attend, or what job they will eventually perform, and more on what kind of person they will become.
The liberal arts help shape not only their minds (how to think), but also their hearts (what to love) and their souls (what to worship).
In terms of practical differences, Chesterton Academy classes are taught using the Great Books. Out students learn from the greatest minds in the history of civilization, including Homer, Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas, Dante, Shakespeare, and G.K. Chesterton (see our curriculum).
Classes are taught in the "Socratic style," hearkening back to how Socrates taught his pupils in ancient Greece: through conversation. Desks are arranged in a square around the room, so the students all face one other, allowing the teacher to lead a discussion about a book or concept rather than lecturing from a podium. Each student is encouraged to formulate and share their opinions and defend them in dialogue, and books are read together out loud so as to appreciate a text's genius and beauty. This style keeps students active and engaged in the learning process, and also develops a confidence in expressing and defending their own thoughts.
For more on the classical education model, read these two articles:
"What is Classical Education?" - Well-Trained Mind
"What is Classical Education?" - Circe Institute
Chesterton Academy takes a minimalist approach to technology. We would rather our students focus on books, writing, and discussion rather than on screens.
This aligns with a recent report from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), which concluded from several studies on youth and screen time that the more children are exposed to screens, the more problems they have with "inattention, obesity, noncompliance, aggression, negative mood, creative play, and academic progress."
We're convinced our children need fewer screens, not more.
Although some of our classrooms at Chesterton Academy do use projectors, and students use technology as needed for research and writing, you will not find a proliferation of iPads, computer games, smartphones, or unnecessary technology.
One side benefit of rejecting fancy bells-and-whistles technology in our classrooms is that we're able to operate the school at a much lower cost and keep tuition low for families.
We love sports but our philosophy is that sports is a game, not a religion. Chesterton Academy is a school with sports, not sports with a school.
Sports do indeed teach valuable virtues such as teamwork and discipline, but so do drama and the other fine arts. When a performance or play goes well, everyone wins—not just one team or the other, as with sports.
That said, we do plan to have sports teams associated with Chesterton Academy of Orlando, but these will likely not be attached directly to the school. Groups of students will join local rec leagues or club teams, proudly wearing Chesterton Academy jerseys, or join up with other churches.
(If your child is a star athlete who is interested in pursuing athletics, they can always play on travel teams and get recruited that way. Graduates of other Chesterton Academies around the country include multiple scholarship college athletes.)
We will begin the 2022-2023 school year with around 30 students. This includes a 9th grade class and a blended 10th/11th grade class.
At Chesterton Academy, we want to maintain a close-knit, family culture, where the students, parents, and teachers stay in tight relationship. We do not desire to grow into a massive behemoth school.
Toward that end, moving forward we will cap each class at roughly 20 students. Once we reach that number we will split the class into two sections. We do not plan to exceed two sections per grade, which means our total enrollment capacity will be around 160 students. Interest above that would require stating a second school in the area.
We are opening the 2022-2023 school year with a 9th grade class and a blended 10th/11th grade class. We will add a full 11th grade class the following year, and a 12th grade class the year after.
If that’s the path God has for them, then yes, Chesterton Academy can help them get accepted into a great college. (And classical school graduates typically outperform other students on standardized tests.)
However, one point we emphasize at Chesterton Academy is that not everyone is meant to go to college. There are other paths to which God might be calling your child, such as a religious vocation, a trade school, entrepreneurship, or moving immediately into a profession after high school. We will help them explore all of those options and discern God's path for them.
The goal of high school is not college prep. The goal of high school is preparing students for life by discerning God’s will and helping them get to heaven.
The tuition for the 2022-2023 school year will be $7,500 per student. This can be payable monthly (over 10 months), quarterly, or in one lump sum. There is also a book fee of $395.
This tuition is extremely low relative to nearby private schools, which charge $13,000 - $17,000 per student, per year, for high school.
It's also worth noting that the tuition represents a small fraction of the total cost needed to educate each child at Chesterton Academy. We aim to keep tuition low in order to welcome students of low-income and working-class families. However, based on our financial projections, it will cost us nearly $20,000 per year, per student to operate the school. This means tuition income covers only 38% of the actual cost—a 62% discount!
The difference will be made up by generous donors who believe in the mission of the school.
In addition to tuition, there will be a book fee of $395. Students will also be responsible for purchasing their own uniforms and school supplies.
Our main source of financial aid are the scholarships offered by the State of Florida, administered by Step Up for Students, which offer around $7,000 per year for students to attend the private school of their choice. This covers almost the entire tuition at Chesterton Academy. Learn more here.
We do have a limited amount of financial aid to offer families who are most in need.
In the end, we do not want money to be a limiting factor. If you and your child desire to attend Chesterton Academy, we will do whatever we can to make that work.
We are not currently offering sibling discounts. Each family is already receiving an enormous discount on tuition relative to the cost of educating each child. We charge families only 1/3 of our total cost to educate each child, raising the other 2/3 through donations, and tuition is already extremely low relative to other private schools in the area.
Yes. We have completed a detailed five-year financial plan to project our revenues, expenses, personnel, and fundraising needs over the next several years. We are confident in our financial stability, which will only strengthen each year as enrollment grows.
Also, we are committed to raising the entire operating cost of each school year before the school year begins. For example, our entire operating budget for the 2022-2023 school year was raised before June 30, 2022. This ensures Chesterton Academy will never run into cash-flow issues or be forced to close in the middle of the school year.
Our Board of Directors, which includes extremely successful businessmen and women, will ensure the school remains financially stable.
Interest Meeting Webinar
Missed our virtual interest meetings? Watch this Zoom replay from July 1, 2021.
Why This School?
Background on why we decided to open Chesterton Academy of Orlando.
The Classical Model
Learn what makes our classical model so effective in shaping minds and hearts.
Discover the game plan for launching Chesterton Academy.