Christian school will move to Trenton

With purchase of former strip club, OCS poised to leave longtime Saukville site

STUDENTS, STAFF AND SUPPORTERS of Ozaukee Christian School gathered recently for the Chili Supper and Family Fun Night at the school in Saukville. Among those who enjoyed the meal were (from left) fifth-grader Sarah Stone and her mother Noreen. Photo by Sam Arendt
By 
DAN BENSON
Ozaukee Press Staff

Ozaukee Christian School officials this week announced the school is buying a former strip club in the Town of Trenton and plans to move the school there.

“The unusual building conversion is an answer to prayer that ends a years-long search for a building to call our own,” a press release making the announcement stated.

“God has given the leadership of OCS a big vision for growth while providing us what we need for each step of this project,” Dave Swartz, the school board president, said in the release.

The purchase was agreed to last week, according to the release.

The Spearmint Rhino Gentleman’s Club operated in the shopping center at 1204 Highway 33 from 2013 until it closed in 2015. Spearmint Rhino is a Norco, Calif.-based chain of strip clubs and other nightclubs in the United States and the United Kingdom.

School Administrator Kris Austin said the closing on the property is scheduled for April 19. She did not disclose the sale price.

The property sold for $532,000 in 2013, according to the Washington County Register of Deeds Office.

The mall is 22,000 square feet and sits on 40 acres, Austin said.

Austin said school officials were drawn to the property because it’s a modern building, large enough for their current enrollment of 67 students with the ability to expand and  has outdoor education space, high visibility and easy access for people coming from Port Washington and West Bend.

About 40% of the school’s students live in Port Washington and Saukville, with about  40% living in Grafton and West Bend and the rest coming from Germantown, Oostburg, Mequon, Sheboygan and other communities.

The fact the building once housed a strip club did not factor into the decision, Austin said.

“We did not know who owned the property when we originally looked at the building in 2017,” she said in an email. “Spearmint Rhino closed back in 2015 and the building has been primarily vacant with just three tenants occupying limited portions of the building since it closed.”

School leaders reached out to Spearmint in January 2017 but were initially rebuffed, according to the press release. In July 2017, however, the company offered to sell the building but the asking price was too high.

But a fundraising drive was launched and meetings held with architects and contractors about potential designs “so we would be ready when God opened the door for us,” the release stated.

“In the meantime,” the press release continued,  “we have done prayer walks at the property with staff, parents and alumni. Students regularly gathered to pray for the process. And we had a group of 140 ‘email prayer warriors’ doing the same.

The purchase was called “a story only God could write.”

“After months of phone conversations, emails and the abundant prayers of God’s people, we were blessed with a signed purchase offer at a price we could handle,” the release stated. “We have enjoyed getting to know Mr. Peter Garrell (attorney for Spearmint) and Ms. Joann Castillo (senior executive assistant) over these many months — and praying with them as well. It is a journey unlike anything we could have imagined.”

OCS is a non-denominational Christian school founded in 1990 that has had several locations since it began, including Portview Christian Center and Friedens Church in Port Washington. 

For the past 19 years, it has been located in the former Immaculate Conception Catholic School in Saukville, which was owned by what today is the St. John XXIII Catholic Parish. Last year, the parish sold the building to Redeemed Christian Church of God-Household of God, necessitating that OCS find a new home. 

“But we have felt God leading us to a building of our own that will allow us to grow, to expand our ability to work with special needs children and to reach families of Washington County,” the press release stated.

The school plans to renovate the mall to include a cafeteria, multipurpose room, a gym with stage, locker rooms and add a classroom wing, according to the release.

A general contractor has been hired and officials hope to have the building ready in time for the 2019-2020 school year.

The school raised about $425,000 toward the property purchase. Officials estimate the cost of buying the mall and the initial renovation to be about $2.2 million.

Fundraising efforts continue.

Austin acknowledged the school’s name may change:    

“OCS has never been about the location. It is about the people that make up God’s school — the staff, students and parents. So while our location is changing and eventually our name may, too, the mission of OCS — partnering with local churches and parents in ‘cultivating the next generation to impact the world for God’s glory’ — remains intact.”

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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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