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Saunders: Carroll Lutheran a school where education is formed in faith

I went to school one day in February; that is, I went to Carroll Lutheran School, where I served on the Board some years ago, to hear a special presentation by the principal, Mandy Gilbart, and to attend chapel service with the students. One of my fondest memories of that afternoon was when two of the fifth-grade students wrote and read the prayers for the service. Among the many prayers was one that struck me — the young lady prayed for her grandfather who was ill. Still other students sang and performed songs, while still others were involved in demonstrating the minister’s sermon.

That turned my thoughts to the motto of Carroll Lutheran School; namely, “Exceptional Education, Formed In Faith.” Not just a motto but a standard by which the school operates every day to give students in grades K to 8 the best preparatory foundation to learn and to grow intellectually and spiritually. In fact, rigorous academics are complemented by faith studies with a focus on character development and community service.

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What makes Carroll Lutheran School so unique must be seen and experienced to appreciate, but summarizing the school’s strengths may help readers see why parents and grandparents are willing to pay tuition to have their young offspring attend CLS. Gilbart is the source for much of what follows.

Carroll Lutheran School
Carroll Lutheran School (Carroll Lutheran School/BSMG)

First and foremost, instruction is individualized. That does not mean that the student goes off to do as he or she pleases; rather it means that the student receives instruction geared to his or her learning abilities with the goal of having the student keep pace with the program and excel. For example, students with IEPs (Individualized Educational Programs) receive special attention that gives them the ability to keep up with their classes. In fact, the School’s Special Educator is certified to teach grades K to 8 and holds additional certification in Reading, Special Education and Wilson. She provides instruction and advocacy services, supervises the implementation of IEPs and 504 Plans, and collaborates with Carroll County Public Schools to coordinate case management.

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Gifted and Talented programs are also part of the individualized instruction in Math and Language Arts where students can earn high school credits. GT opportunities in Science and Social Studies include enrichment activities and advanced research.

In some cases, instruction is organized by ability levels rather than by grade levels. Students in grades K through 4 attend “Just Right” groups in reading, language arts, and math that suit their ability levels to eliminate boredom or frustration. An exceptional academic program at CLS translates into 30% of the students scoring at or above the 90th percentile in math and in reading.

The teachers regularly use technology to enhance instruction. Students have access to and use technology for research, writing, special projects, and presentations. Students are thereby taught to focus on higher level thinking skills—learning, applying, doing, teaching, leading.

Unique programs in classroom instruction as well as after-school programs help to boost student achievement. Sports programs such as soccer and lacrosse, introduction to foreign languages and sign language, computer coding and robotics, vocal and instrumental music, science club, art club, health, all provide exposure to well-rounded activities. Before and after school care programs, monitored by the Maryland Office of Childcare, are also available for fees based on level of usage. Students enrolled participate in structured homework time, card games and board games that promote thinking and motor skills, and of course, snacks.

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Cultural and social events, such as guest speakers, concerts, plays, field trips, class parties, cook outs and more, help build relationships within the school community. These events are augmented by the mentoring program that middle school students provide for the younger students. They act as chapel buddies and reading partners within the school and even visit local preschools to read to those students.

Building relationships within the broader community and the world is also a hallmark of CLS and its lessons in faith. Locally, families and staff filled 21 stockings and a box full of toys for Shepherd’s Staff Christmas Stocking program. Similarly, students, families and staff supported Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child Shoebox by filling 66 shoeboxes with gifts for victims of war, poverty, natural disasters and famine.

Delivering a broad and complete academic program requires that all staff members are MSDE certified and hold early childhood, elementary or secondary education degrees, with many holding advanced degrees and certification.

Because CLS has a Certificate of Approval from MSDE, it must be audited by MSDE. That audit occurred in February of this year with “astounding results,” according to Gilbart. CLS earned 100% compliance in all areas — admission policies including Title 9, curriculum standards, assessment data, staff certifications, the facility, safety procedures, health education, financial record keeping for families, all written policies. Perhaps Gilbart and CLS should be models for all private schools!

Expert teachers bring outstanding results for the students enrolled at CLS. One such teacher of middle school science is Madison Baber, a former student at the school who has come full circle and is now teaching at her alma mater. She has said of her experience: “My education at CLS set the foundation for who I am today. As I return to CLS as a teacher I apply many of the values that were instilled in me as a student. As a student I was taught to embrace community, persevere through the difficult times, and live out a Christian life. These values guided me through high school and college; they now guide me in my teaching at CLS.”

At this unprecedented time of school closure, Gilbart welcomes inquiries about Carroll Lutheran School, located at 1738 Old Taneytown Road in Westminster, on her e-mail at mgilbart@clsedu.org. You can also check out the school at www.clsedu.org.

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