GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Grand Rapids' first Islam-based grade school is opening next year.
Funded initially through donations, the Islamic Academy is scheduled to open its doors in July 2015.
FOX 17 toured the school and learned that it’s not necessarily just for Muslim families.
Originally called the Creative Learning Center, the property on Rowland Drive SE in Grand Rapids is now owned by the Islamic Foundation of West Michigan, and they’re turning it into a grade school.
Dr. Ghulam Malik, president of the Islamic Foundation of West Michigan, said the school will be using the standard McGraw Hill syllabus, the same foundation used by many public schools.
“What we'll add to it is Islamic studies,” said Dr. Malik. “Two hours of Islamic studies.”
The purpose of the school is to allow equal education to the young Muslim population, giving them an environment that is free of intimidation, "to bridge the gap between the Islamic faith and the other faiths, so we become a part of the American fabric,” said Dr. Malik.
He emphasized the academy is not only for the Muslim community and encourages anyone to attend. He said families from a variety of different religious backgrounds are already showing interest in sending their children to the academy.
“Parents don't care as long as their kids get the best education, and they are willing to pay for that.”
The plan is to open the preschool this July, followed in the fall with kindergarten through fifth grade.
There are over 2,000 Islamic schools in the U.S. with 40,000 kids enrolled in them, according to Dr. Malik.
He said even though it’s new for West Michigan, it’s nothing new for America. “I don't think that anybody needs to be threatened because this happens to be an Islamic school,” said Dr. Malik.
The academy has two wings, one for preschool activities and one for kindergarten through fifth. Dr. Malik expects about 100 students in the fall.
He believes it’s just another page for the great American story, just as it was for those of other faiths.
“Now it's time for the Muslim to come,” said Dr. Malik.