Lutheran school to open in Carroll; Organizers hoping to have 60 students in three grades this fall


After three years of planning, members of area Lutheran congregations are moving forward with plans to open Carroll County's first Lutheran school in September 1999.

Organizers are hoping that at least 60 students in kindergarten, first and second grades will be enrolled at Carroll Lutheran School next fall.

"There are a large number of Lutheran congregations in the vicinity, and there was a desire to have an education opportunity that would tie in not only good academics but also a Christian nurturing atmosphere and some understanding of Lutheran theology," said the Rev. John Koehnlein, pastor of St. John's Lutheran Church in Westminster and president of the school's board of directors.

He said Lutherans have shown a great deal of interest in the project.

"There's an awful lot of enthusiasm," Koehnlein said. "Almost every single day I get calls from one or two people who have heard about it and are either interested in helping or having their children enrolled."

Three years ago, representatives from area Lutheran congregations formed a committee to explore the possibility of opening a school in Carroll. In December 1997, the committee made a recommendation to the Westminster Conference of the Delaware-Maryland Synod to go forward with the project, and the member pastors appointed a board of directors to oversee development of the school.

The conference has 27 congregations in Carroll County, two in Baltimore County near the Carroll line, and one just over the Pennsylvania border.

Koehnlein said dissatisfaction with Carroll public schools was not the the impetus for starting a Lutheran school.

"Because it is a public school system, there are certain things, especially from a religious perspective, that it simply can't provide," he said.

South Carroll High School Principal David Booz was involved in initial discussions about the Carroll Lutheran School, and he serves as vice president of the school's board of directors.

"Our public schools are very overcrowded," said Booz. "I think they're excellent, but this is just an alternative, and I believe that the idea of needing religion in one's life is very important."

County Commissioner Donald I. Dell, a member of St. John's Lutheran Church, is also on the school's board of directors.

"I haven't been active in the church recently, beyond attending Sunday services, and I thought maybe this was something I could help out with," Dell said.

Carroll Lutheran School expects to draw its student population mainly from within the county. Koehnlein said the nearest Lutheran school is close to Baltimore.

Although long-range plans call for the Carroll Lutheran School to offer a kindergarten through 12th-grade program, the board decided to open the school with kindergarten, first and second grades, and it set the maximum class size at 24.

Last month, the board selected the curriculum from Bethlehem Christian Day School in Baltimore to use at Carroll Lutheran School.

A board newsletter describes the curriculum as similar to the academic program in Carroll public schools, and notes that reading is taught using a mix of phonics and literature.

"It was viewed as a very good, sound, fundamental curriculum," Koehnlein said.

The board is considering three different sites in the Westminster area for the school and expects to make a decision within a month, Koehnlein said. All of the locations have existing buildings.

Koehnlein said the board plans to raise between $5,000 and $10,000 of the estimated $50,000 in start-up costs. Board members hope to solicit donations from church members, businesses and individuals to cover the rest. He estimated the school's annual tuition would be $3,000.

Pub Date: 1/04/99

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