Sunrise Academy, the private K-8 Islamic school located in Hilliard, is filled to capacity this school year and looking to expand.
"We are in the process of looking for two buildings: one for a high school and one to purchase on the East Side to start an elementary over there," said Director Leah Mohiuddin.
"That is in the works. That is what our goal is," she said.
Generally speaking, officials are seeking high school space in Northwest Columbus.
A new elementary school probably would open with grades K-3 and expand one grade per year through eighth grade, she said. That is the model Sunrise Academy followed when it opened its doors a dozen years ago in a former library at 5657 Scioto Darby Road.
Enrollment this school year is 340.
"We are full to capacity. There is a waiting list in every grade level. We turned away 200 to 300 children," said Mohiuddin.
"We just have so many children in our community. Parents are all looking for an education for their children in an environment where they can learn without being afraid of who they are. That is what we offer. We are not able to get every child in here, which is a shame," said Mohiuddin.
Sunrise students don't have to worry about intimidation by students who do not understand Islamic practice, including clothing style.
"In public school, people pull head scarves off the girls. Kids still call Muslim kids terrorists. It's sad. Education is the key and we just have to keep educating people," said Mohiuddin.
Girls and women may choose to wear a scarf or hijab in public for the sake of modesty as well as to prevent others from judging them based on their looks, several young Muslim women said in an interview last year.
Although Islam is the common religion for all at Sunrise, students' families come from 32 countries, each with its own cultural heritage.
Included are families with backgrounds from Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Somalia, Palestine and Puerto Rico.
The school is so diverse that Muskingum College and Ashland University send their education students and future teachers to Sunrise for diversity training, said Mohiuddin.
Members of the general public sometimes are surprised to hear classes are conducted in English and, as is the case in public schools, services are provided for those who are learning English as a second language.
Sunrise requires students to take classes in the Arabic language as well as in Islamic studies, said Mohiuddin. Otherwise, it follows the core curriculum outlined by the state of Ohio.
Except for holiday breaks, Sunrise follows the school-year calendar established by the Hilliard City School District. The first day was Aug. 19.
Sunrise closes for three days each year in celebration of two separate religious holidays. For this reason, the school year ends about one week later than it does in the Hilliard schools. Sunrise's last day this year is June 6.
The first holiday is the first day of Ramadan, a month-long period of daytime fasting that begins Monday, Sept. 1.
There will be many activities in school, and students, staff and families will share several Iftar dinners, or meals held at sunset when the day's fast ends, said Mohiuddin.
Ramadan itself ends with the feast of Eid Al-Fitr and the school will be closed Oct. 1-3 in honor of the holiday. This is a time when families gather for meals and to exchange gifts. In keeping with the spirit, there will be classroom parties before the holiday break.
"The kids really look forward to that because we are in an environment where we can celebrate our religion," said Mohiuddin.
Students will have another three days off in December for the feast of Eid Al-Adha, which comes at the end of Haaj. Special activities again are planned prior to the holiday break.
For more information about Sunrise Academy, visit the Web site sunriseacademy.net or call 614-527-0465.
"Parents are all looking for an education for their children in an environment where they can learn without being afraid of who they are. That is what we offer."