The First Assembly of God Church in Alexandria opened a scaled-down Christian school last week after months of battling neighborhood opposition and a reluctant City Council.
Last month, the council approved a much-restricted version of the school, limiting it to kindergarten through ninth grade and 75 students. The council said the school, next to the church on Braddock Road, could open under those limits as soon as it received a certificate of occupancy from the fire department.
The Rev. Thomas F. Gulbronson, pastor of the church, said Monday that officials had installed a fire alarm system and received the required certificate. He added that 55 students are enrolled in the school and "everything is going fine."
Hundreds of neighbors opposed the school, claiming it would create more traffic and noise than the residential neighborhood could bear.
Council members said they agreed, and in an effort to reduce the impact on neighbors eliminated grades 10, 11, and 12 from the proposal and severely scaled down from 350 the projected student population.
Gulbronson said this week that 18 high school students who had planned to attend the school are being sent to another Christian school.
Citing the advice of legal counsel, he refused to name that school or say whether the church plans to appeal the restrictions placed on the Assembly of God school.
Under Virginia law, a city may not deny an application to open a private school as long as the proposal meets health and safety requirements.
However, persons living in the neighborhood surrounding the Assembly of God school have contended that school is a health and safety hazard because of the noise and traffic it will generate.
The church and 40-classroom educational building is on 4.2 acres and close to single-family homes on three sides.
After the recent council vote, Carter Land, a spokesman for the disgruntled neighbors, said the school should not have been allowed to open. But he said neighbors believe the restrictions are necessary to protect the neighborhood as much as possible.