WEST BEND, Wis. — It's a transformation for the books. A former strip club once located along Highway 33 is now where Ozaukee Christian School calls home.
"We knew somewhere, sometime, God will provide just the right one, and he did," said Kris Austin, the head of the Christian school.
Ozaukee Christian School purchased the 40-acre property in 2019 and has slowly renovated the former California-based Spearmint Rhino club. In addition to the gentlemen's club, the school also got a shopping center.
"Because it had been a strip mall in addition to being a strip club, much of it had never even been built out," said Austin. "It was fairly easy for us to kind of turn that into classroom space little by little."
The place that once was lined with poles and stages now has classrooms for kindergarten, first, and second graders.
"We just found that humorous. We took the drywall off of the windows because it was just a darker environment in many, different ways and we've, let the light in and we think of it as the light of Jesus," said Austin.
Now the school is ready to introduce the new building to the world with an open house on Aug. 25 from 4-7 p.m.
The West Bend Chamber of Commerce will host a ribbon-cutting ceremony, and attendees will be treated to free root beer floats from Cedar Crest Ice Cream and Sprecher Brewery.
The renovation came together gradually over time.
In 2019, the school finished 7,000 square feet, enough space for 57 students. But in 2020, the building was emptied due to the COVID-19 pandemic. By last August, enough space was completed to house 93 students.
Now that the upgrades are complete, the 22,000-square foot building can hold up to 150 students - the first time enrollment has passed 100 students in the school's 32-year history.
"This is our school. This is our place and a safe place," said Jennifer Boettcher, an English language arts teacher. "Showing students freedom and hope and life and having it come from something that was not any of those things."
"God provided in such unique ways, only he could write the story that is OCS's," said Austin.
“Just like God provided manna for the Israelites wandering in the desert, His provision for each step of this project came at just the right time. God is never late, but rarely early,” said Dave Swartz, the school's board vice-president.
The school says it completed construction for $1.6 million, $1.5 million of which was donated.