Growth attributed to several factors
By Angie Landsverk
Enrollment at St. Peter Lutheran School is up.
The year before the school opened the doors of its new facility in Weyauwega, the school’s enrollment stood at 87 students.
That was during the 2012-13 school year.
When the new school opened in the fall of 2013, enrollment increased to about 100 students.
The following year, about 20 new students started attending St. Peter Lutheran School.
This school year, the school’s enrollment stands at around 126 students.
This trend is the opposite of what many school districts in the state experienced during the past decade, as they saw their enrollments decline.
Jeff Miller is a teacher at St. Peter Lutheran School and also the school’s principal.
He believes there are several reasons why enrollment increased at the school.
“I think the main reason is there are parents out there who want a Christian education for their children,” Miller said.
Lowering the cost of tuition helped more parents be able to afford to do so.
“For so many years, it was so high, and we didn’t have people willing to pay the cost,” Miller said.
Three years ago, the decision was made to lower the tuition to $480, he said.
All families paid $480, whether they were members of the congregation or not.
“We wanted to see if that made a difference, and that did,” Miller said.
The decrease in the cost of tuition coincided with the opening of the new school.
Since then, tuition has increased a bit, he said.
In addition, there is again a differentiation between the cost for members versus non-members of the church.
What also affected St. Peter Lutheran School’s enrollment was the closing two years ago of Immanuel Lutheran School in Waupaca, Miller said.
“It was not an easy decision for them to close their doors,” he said. “Then they came to us and asked if their parents could send their children to our school. We said, ‘Sure.’”
The two churches are in fellowship through the same synod and teach the same doctrines, Miller said.
“We picked up a good 20 students from there. Some were members at the church there, but there were some who were non-members and decided to send their children here,” he said.
Families from Immanuel are charged the same tuition as families from St. Peter Lutheran are.
“Immanuel helps pay the difference between tuition and the cost of education, just like our congregation,” Miller said. “That again shows how much these congregations believe in Christian education to pick that up. They want that for their families.
Up until this school year, families from Waupaca, who enrolled their children at St. Peter Lutheran School, often arranged to car pool.
That changed this school year.
“We’ve had bussing with Weyauwega-Fremont. We did not have bussing with Waupaca, because Immanuel had its own school,” Miller said.
Since St. Peter Lutheran is in fellowship with Immanuel and is within five miles of the Waupaca School District, that opened the door for St. Peter Lutheran to ask the Waupaca School District if it could now be included in Waupaca’s bussing boundaries, he said.
“That’s what we did,” Miller said. “They were very gracious, very helpful. I cannot say enough about the Waupaca School District and Dr. (David) Poeschl.”
While the addition of bussing from the Waupaca School District did not affect the W-F School District, St. Peter Lutheran took the information to the district to make it aware, Miller said.
St. Peter Lutheran School has preschool students through eighth graders.
In grades three through eight, the classrooms are multi-grades.
“We try to keep the numbers where the quality of education will be there for the students,” Miller said. “We don’t want so many students that we can’t meet their educational needs.”
The school’s capacity is probably 150 students, Miller said, but they limit the number of students in the multi-grade classrooms to 25.
“Could the rooms hold more? Probably, but it would affect education,” he said.
Miller said the school has high expectations for its students.
“By seventh and eighth grade, the students, as a whole, are usually at least a grade or two grades higher in reading, math, language. science and social studies standardized testing,” he said.
If a student falls behind a grade level in reading or math, the school’s remedial teacher works with that student.
Referrals may be from a parent or a teacher.
“If they qualify, they meet with her (the remedial teacher) one on one to get them to grade level,” Miller said. “We try to address that as early as possible.”
This year’s enrollment of about 126 students is comparable to last year’s enrollment.
“We have 72 percent of all possible students from the congregation,” Miller said. “It’s been that way for a very long time.”
The school is also beginning to partner more with Immanuel Lutheran.
The students sang at a Sunday service at Immanuel last fall to keep the school visible, he said.
“When they (Immanuel) closed their doors, they said they would like to open again at some point,” Miller said. “But until then, this is their school.”