St Paul Lutheran School accommodates expanding school body
By Kris Leonhardt
STEVENS POINT – This summer, St Paul Lutheran Church congregation will address an expansion of their facilities on Wyatt Avenue, as they handle a growth in their school student body.
“Due to the growth of our school this past school year, this year we were blessed to have two 3K, two 4K and two kindergarten classes. And as we’ve been studying our growth patterns, we’re holding steady for next school year again. Our growth allows us next year to move those two 4K classes, so we are having a temporary classroom building that’s added on to our site,” explained St. Paul Lutheran School Principal Jim Wegner. “And this will allow us to put our two kindergarten classes in this temporary classroom.”
As of last week, Wegner said that the school was looking at one 3K class, two 4K, two kindergarten and two first grade classes for the coming school year, with 191 students in 3K-eighth grade.
“Pre-COVID, we were easily in the 160s, with one 3K through eighth grade, and then it started building up into the 180s and now we’re up in the 190s. There’s an outside possibility that we might still even hit 200 by the time summer ends, but as we will know it’s all in the Lord’s hands has to enrollment,” Wegner said.
“We’re in the process of now adding some additional staffing. We can’t thank our congregation for their support financially and being a part of that whole growth process.
“Our congregation and our school actually have grown at the same rate over the last five years.”
Wegner explained that there are various reasons for the school’s growth.
“I can’t really say that [it’s school choice] because of the 68 students who are part of our school choice program, close to 90-95% of those are already families that exist here at St. Paul,” he said.
“Obviously school choice is a great opportunity to reach out to those from our community, to be able to hear the Word of God and our academics; but, I think there are just so many factors. We have a great staff and faculty, and we have a good reputation in the community as a good school.
“And, our parents, they’re our No. 1 marketing and so, word of mouth is always a good thing.
“I know we got great pastors here at St. Paul. And so there’s a whole slew of different reasons why we’ve grown
The expansion was approved by the congregation at the end of March and planning has been led by a strategic planning team.
“We’ve had two men from the congregation now retired gentleman that I’ve really embraced (this.) We have a strategy team that we’ve been doing this for over several years of planning, preparing for growth, strategizing for growth space, scope, as well staffing — for the three S’s — as we’ve been working on,” Wegner added.
“And these two gentlemen within our congregation have really embraced this and they’ve been doing the legwork, talking to the city and getting all those necessary bids and subcontractors and all that.
“And, our congregation is really very, very supportive of our mission and vision of our school and church together, centered in the word pointing people to Jesus.”
The strategy team is made up of the church pastors, Wegner and several congregants, with Jerry Lazarski and Butch Weege playing a major role.
“Those two gentlemen have really helped guide us through this entire project,” explained Wegner.
The addition is termed as a “temporary classroom,” as the congregation looks to see what the future holds for them.
“We are looking for this to be a three- to five-year potential, maybe even seven years. We just want to continue to see if we’re going to continue to grow. And if that growth continues to happen over those years, we will be looking at a different kind of maybe campaign or something that’s maybe more permanent. You know, that temporary classroom could be since we are building right on site, it could help us for further needs for ministry in the future,” he added.
Wegner said that the addition will butt up to the playground and will take some space away, but says it is an unfortunate necessity.
“It’ll take a little bit of our space away, but this is a need and so we have to address those needs,” he explained.
“We are a ministry where the church and school are a very, very busy place, and trying to accommodate all the different various groups within our church as well as school. Those are things that our congregation members have identified as challenges that we have within and besides our school growing, it’s also trying to free up space for other ministries of the church as well.”
The goal is to have the new construction completed by Aug. 11 for the start of the 2023-24 school year, at the end of August, which will allow for vacating the two kindergarten classrooms for the other classes. The congregation held a groundbreaking ceremony on April 26 to celebrate the expansion