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'Difficult to maintain': Private Sask. school embroiled in abuse allegations may soon close


A private Christian school at the centre of a civil lawsuit and several criminal cases might soon be taken over by an affiliated group, according to a letter obtained by CTV News.

The letter, addressed to senior Ministry of Education official Kevin Gabel, says the Legacy Christian Academy (LCA) intends to close its doors as of June 30.

“Because of the ongoing allegations against Christian Centre Academy, our earlier rendition, and even against LCA as it is today, it has become more difficult to maintain the student enrolment levels that we believe are necessary for operating with excellence,” writes Marguerite Wiggins, who describes herself as a former vice-principal and current “advisory consultant” to the school.

Roughly two dozen officials from Legacy Christian Academy and its affiliated Mile Two Church are named in a $25 million class action lawsuit launched by former students who allege they were subject to physical, psychological and sexual abuse at the school.

In January, the school’s former athletic director Aaron Benneweis was sentenced to two years less a day for sexually assaulting a student when she was between 13 and 16-years-old.

Benneweis is one of four former staff members charged criminally after the former students filed their civil suit.

The swirling legal issues have made it difficult to recruit new students to the school and it’s unable to increase tuition any further without additional provincial funding, Wiggins says.

“We have found it more and more difficult to work as successfully as we would like.”

So, LCA is reportedly passing the torch to another Saskatoon-based private school.

“We are, of course, aware of Westdale Christian School’s plans to reopen this fall and to do so by renting our current space,” Wiggins writes.

“The hope is our families will transfer to Westdale without having to continue under the cloud of allegations that is the current situation.”

Wiggins says she’s hopeful Westdale’s enrolment will grow and allow them to become certified, “which will then allow them to increase program options and hire more experienced and certified staff.”

In a statement emailed to CTV News, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Education said it had not yet received notification about the closure of Legacy Christian Academy.

"The ministry is aware that Westdale Christian School is interested in relocating to the facility currently occupied by Legacy Christian Academy," the statement said.

"Should this occur, all conditions currently in place for Legacy Christian Academy would remain in place at Westdale Christian School."

The relocation of Westdale wouldn’t quite represent a transformation for the school — Westdale is an offshoot of City Centre Church, which was opened by former Mile Two Church elder James Randall.

According to an internal Mile Two Church document shared with CTV News last year, Randall was called back to help manage the church in June after its pastor Brien Johnson stepped down.

Johnson’s father Keith was the pastor and head of the school when much of the abuse allegedly took place.

Both Keith Johnson and Randall are named defendants in the civil lawsuit. Johnson has not been located since the lawsuit launched, but he is believed to be in Texas.

In a statement to media on Thursday afternoon, the provincial NDP's education critic Matt Love described the closure of Legacy as more of a "rebrand."

Love argued that Saskatchewan schools receiving public funding should follow the provincial human rights code.

"This independent school has a history of abuse and the Sask. Party still increased their funding more than our public, Catholic, and French schools got," he said in the statement.

CTV News has contacted LCA and City Centre Church for comment but has not yet received a response. Top Stories

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