AVCS Celebrates 25 Years

Feb 9, 2023

As Aliso Viejo Christian School (AVCS) celebrates its 25th anniversary, we can’t help but reflect on the countless blessings this school has brought to our community. AVCS is an accredited, private, Christian school where our distinction in education is fueled by our faith in Jesus, our dedication to excellence, and our students’ success. For a quarter of a century, Aliso Viejo Christian School has been a cornerstone of faith in Jesus and a Christ-centered education in the Aliso Viejo area. The wishes and prayers of the founders of AVCS, woven into the school’s mission statement, are evident today through its past, present, and future.

“It is the mission of the school, as a ministry of Lutheran Church of the Cross, to be a Christ-centered, Bible-based environment, which provides academic excellence and nurtures students to become life-long learners who know Jesus Christ and share His Word, His grace, and His love with all people.”


Black and White photo of AVCS Building A in 1999 with 25th Anniversary Logo laid over photo

1992-1998 - Only God Could Have Made This Happen…

old black and white photo of Cindy Bartlett sitting at her desk

“In 1992, soon after the reopening of Lutheran Church of the Cross (LCC) Preschool, families began asking for recommendations for where to send their children for kindergarten to continue learning in a school where they would be nurtured in their faith in Christ and learn in the context of a Biblical world view,” explained Cindy Bartlett, director of LCC Preschool 1992-2000.

“The history of this ministry is truly God’s story,” explained Bartlett. “Only God could have made this happen.” Careful consideration began among the church and preschool staff and leadership about starting a K-8 school in a possible satellite worship location. 

As only God can do, He provided for the financial resources through a very generous gift from the Crean Family to purchase land in Aliso Viejo and to begin planning for the K-8 school and worship site.

William Bartlett, Pastor of LCC from 1990 – 2005 remembers the moment fondly, “John Crean called and said: ‘This is John Crean, and I’ll do it!’ After greeting John Crean, I asked, “Do what?” and he said, “I’ll donate 2.3 Million dollars for the startup of the Christian School and campus that you want to start in Aliso Viejo.”

Pastor Bill Bartlett, Pastor Leland Lantz and Pastor Steve Turnbull were instrumental in casting the vision for Aliso Viejo Christian School.

Photo of man standing by Builders' Sign reading Aliso Viejo Church of the Cross and Christian School
site plan and land photos for new Aliso Viejo Christian School.

1999-2002 – In the Beginning…

In September 1999, these pastors’ dream became a reality and AVCS opened its doors for the first time with 115 students. “All classrooms were in the main building surrounding the sanctuary,” explained Kim Winters, AVCS Mom as well as Admissions & Office Manager from 1999-2021. “There wasn’t a technology lab or dedicated PE teachers, sports programs, or a gym, but it was an excellent year! My daughter was safe, and she was surrounded by educators who loved the Lord and the students!”

Students standing in front of AVCS for Ribbon Cutting Ceremony, 1999.

Mr. Walter Funck was hired as the first principal of AVCS, serving a 2-year term. “There were 12 of us on staff at AVCS in the 2001-2002 school year,” Cindy Bartlett, who also served as Director of School Ministries at AVCS and LCC Preschool from 2000 – 2002, shared. “It’s a joy to see how the Lord has blessed and grown the ministry now with so many staff members! And to see the faces of former preschool and AVCS students who are now serving as teachers and staff at AVCS.”

Group photo of staff members
Close-up photo of AVCS Principal Kathy Hutchins and Assistant Principal, Leann Karr.

In 2001-2002, AVCS began preparing for a second building to be built. 

Kathy Hutchins, Kindergarten teacher at the time, was asked to be the second school principal and she continued to serve the school and further its mission until 2016. Leann Karr was hired in 2002 and served as the Assistant Principal for the next eight years.

In June of 2002, enrollment for AVCS reached over 200 students and two students graduated 8th grade for the first time.  

“We must always remember to sing and share Proverbs 3:5-6,” shared Hutchins. “It reminds us to trust in the Lord with all our heart and lean not on our own understanding. In all our ways acknowledge Him and He will direct our paths.”

Improvements were made and implemented in the second year. In the third year, on September 4, 2002, the second building was completed and blessed by the families, students, and staff. The new building gave AVCS a Library, Computer Lab, Science Lab, and many new classrooms! 

In addition, a dedicated PE teacher was appointed, and a formal music program was introduced. Additional staff were also hired to ensure that there was plenty of supervision on the playground to keep students safe.

“I went to AVCS from 2001-2004,” said Noel Pang, 6th Grade ELA Teacher at AVCS since 2021. “When I was attending AVCS, our classes were so small, that 6-8 grade was put into one classroom. I graduated 8th grade with 8 students in total!”

Pang goes on to share “What drew me back to teach at AVCS is that God called me for a purpose. I have some joy-filled memories during my middle school years here. I want to pass those memories (and life lessons), onto today’s middle school students. I’m so grateful for my time with these students. They bring me joy every day!”

Students standing in front of building holding hands

2004-2009 - Growing in Faith Together…

In July of 2004, Pastor John Foss became the new Campus Pastor for AVCS. “I was blessed to serve at Aliso Viejo Christian Church and School for 14 years from 2004 – 2018 along with my wife Sarah and our 4 children,” Foss shared. “All our kids graduated from 8th grade at AVCS and had awesome experiences in a Jesus-centered environment. Where the worship center is now, we used to have a multi-purpose room and gym! I remember coaching basketball, and even spraining my ankle while playing volleyball on the carpeted floor of the gym!”

Photo of Basketball Team on left and man singing on right.
Student cheerleaders on blacktop outside at basketball game.

In the Spring of 2008, the Growing in Faith Together (G.I.F.T.) program launched to begin raising funds for an Event Center and third building for AVCS. Melissa Murphy, Director of Design and Information Services at AVCS, remembers back in 2008 when AVCS launched the G.I.F.T. program.

“We gathered in a giant tent that was on the “blacktop” at the time. The event was catered and free to all who would come and hear the exciting news and goals for growth,” said Murphy.

In the Fall of 2009, Building C was built, and the new Event Center opened on the AVCS campus. “I remember that dedication day of our new Gym and Event Center,” said Foss. “That was an awesome accomplishment that so many people worked on to make happen. It is going to be serving our school family for many years to come.”

students standing in front of red construction fencing
Students standing in front of red construction fencing

In addition to the Event Center and Gym, a separate eating area for middle school students, additional classrooms, and meeting areas were added. “AVCS has been dedicated to excellence by bringing new or expanded programs each year since it opened and it will never stop seeking excellence and new ways of reaching students to become the boys and girls and ultimately the men and women that God created them to be,” exclaimed Winters.

“I started teaching at AVCS mid-school year in January 2006, and taught 3rd grade in room 17 through Oct 2009…and then I came back in 2019 with my youngest child started kindergarten,” Junior Kindergarten (JK) teacher, Cathi Heilman, shared.

“It has been truly exciting to watch AVCS grow through the years. I remember fundraising for Building C, the sanctuary with no stage, and when there was no JK!  I have watched God bless our school as it grows, and I believe it is because we have been faithful to Him. God is working here at AVCS; truly transforming lives.”

2010-2017 - Guiding Hearts, Inspiring Minds, Transforming Lives…

In the Summer of 2010, the AVCS enrollment reached 350 students and Kalyn Peterson became the Assistant Principal.

Dedicated to nurturing a child’s talent and Christian character, by 2010 additional enrichment programs were implemented such as Art, Drama, and Computer Technology. These along with PE and Music Education were added in weekly rotations for students to explore their interests and try everything!

“In 2010, I assumed the role of the technology teacher at AVCS,” said Annette Sabatasso, Computer Technology Teacher at AVCS. “Eager to enhance the elementary program, I introduced KidPix 3D and Typing Agent, complemented by a comprehensive digital citizenship and internet safety curriculum.”

Over the years, the computer technology program has grown into a collaborative effort with elementary classroom teachers, extending beyond the computer lab. In middle school, students can now choose from specialized electives like coding, podcasting, and robotics. 

 “The school has grown leaps and bounds with programs that students can tap into their God-given gifts and talents,” says Darlene Deford, Art and Drama Teacher at AVCS since 2007.

Maria Lindholm, Kindergarten Teacher from 2011 present, shared what AVCS has meant for her and her family. “I had no idea when I started teaching Kindergarten in 2011, that my faith in Jesus and my heart for our staff, students, and families would grow beyond measure,” said Lindholm. “I have been incredibly blessed to have had two, out of my three amazing children attend AVCS since Kindergarten. I couldn’t be prouder to be a part of a community of believers that keeps Jesus at the center of everything they do.”

In the Fall of 2012, the final phase of Building C was complete with new classrooms and a student store. AVCS established its tagline, Guiding Hearts, Inspiring Minds, Transforming Lives.

“AVCS is my 2nd family!” Kalyn Peterson, Head of School for AVCS and LCC Preschool shared. “This community helped to raise my 2 sons in the Lord. Over the past 17 years, I have watched our community grow, our facilities enhanced, and our students and families thrive. This community has overcome challenges that have fueled our faith and desire for spiritual and academic excellence.”

In August of 2016, Kalyn Peterson was promoted to Principal. “God has truly blessed this ministry in so many ways,” said Peterson. “Our staff has always been dedicated to the mission and vision of our school. It is such an honor to serve the Lord, the staff, students, and the families of AVCS every day.”

Aerial photo of the AVCS Campus in 2019
2 women standing together holding a stop sign at a cross walk

2018-2023 - A Solid Foundation…

In July of 2018, Meredith Arldt was hired as Assistant Principal of AVCS. Student Enrollment had grown to 337 students. Plans for a new and improved playground for students, as well as fencing and gates to surround the school perimeter, were underway.

 July of 2020, Pastor Kevin Sheldon became the new Campus Pastor for AVCS. AVCS navigated the COVID-19 pandemic by providing “in-person” learning in the fall of 2020 and onward.

In the Fall of 2021, the administration team, led by Peterson and Arldt, rolled out the Strategic Plan, task forces with intentional efforts in all aspects of the school to build on the solid foundation of Jesus and truly transform lives.

 One AVCS 5th grade student shared “I love that we don’t have bullies at our school because we are always learning about God and how to be more like Him.”

AVCS Campus Pastor Kevin Sheldon sitting in his office in front of a book shelf.
Students sitting outside in an outdoor ampitheater

In 2022, construction was completed on the new outdoor amphitheater, which has become a favorite gathering spot for students during recess and a place for teachers to instruct outdoors on beautiful days.

In the Fall of 2022, the administrative staff implemented All-School Monthly Spirit Day Challenges and Activities to provide students with actionable examples and experiences of loving God and loving people.

Staff and students use this time to pray together, write letters to share thankfulness and love, and take on challenges to be kind and read the Bible daily.

“It has always been very important to me that my children attend a Christian school, and I knew firsthand that AVCS was a school that provided strong academics in a supportive Christian environment,” explained Heilman. “The teachers here see the “whole child” and can truly teach character as well as academics.”

Pastor Paul Finley became the new Pastor of Lutheran Church of the Cross in 2022. His two sons currently attend AVCS. Pastor Paul is a huge advocate for Christian education and is looking forward to continuing the mission, vision and values of AVCS.

Pastor Finely and his family holding balloons and standing together.

2024 - And Into the Future…

AVCS now has a student body of 385 students and 67 staff who are dedicated to the school’s mission of being a Christ-centered, Bible-based environment, which provides academic excellence and nurtures students to become life-long learners who know Jesus Christ and share His Word, His grace, and His love with all people. “Praise the Lord!

How exciting to think of all the hearts and lives that have been transformed over these past 25 years.” -Cindy Bartlett

A large group of students in the gymnasium
Photo of the exterior of AVCS Campus

 “I hope that the beautiful teaching of the Christian faith, along with a quality, excellent Christian education, will be the seeds that are planted in each AVCS student for the beginning of a long life in Christ.” – Pastor Leland, Associate Pastor at Lutheran Church of the Cross from 1997-2022.

In that brief phone call back in 1998, John Crean said “I’ll do it!” And every day for the past 25 years, teachers, staff, parents, and families must say of the AVCS mission statement… “I’ll do it!”

“My final prayer and wish for AVCS,” said Pastor William Bartlett, “is that all the students that have ever attended, now attend, or will attend AVCS, will say…


“THANK YOU, GOD, THAT THEY DID IT! AVCS fulfilled its Christ-centered mission to me, and because of that, ‘I am now and eternally more than a Conqueror through Jesus Christ who loved me and gave Himself for me.’ (Romans 8:37, Galatians 2:20).”

Aerial photo looking down at students spelling out the word "LOVE!" with their bodies.

“Once a Conqueror, always a Conqueror!” agreed Peterson. May our Lord bless, guide, and help AVCS to continue to fulfill its mission and ministry through Jesus Christ in the years to come.” 

Timeline Graphic of AVCS happenings and events throughout the past 25 years
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