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With room for more students, Lutheran North adding middle school option

Students take an algebra quiz TuesStudents take an algebra quiz Tuesday at Lutheran HIgh  School North in north St. Louis day at Luthern Middle School North in north St. Louis County. The parochial school is planning to add middle school grades next fall.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio
Students take an algebra quiz Tuesday at Lutheran HIgh School North in north St. Louis County. The parochial school is planning to add middle school grades next fall.

Lutheran High School North will add middle grades onto its campus in north St. Louis County next year, even as nearby Lutheran elementary schools struggle to attract enough students to stay open.

There are families looking for a more structured, Christian-based environment for middle school levels, school leaders said.

“There are families in north county and north city both who are looking for different educational options. And we’ve heard of many stories of families that live close to us, but they’re driving past us to get to a school,” said Lutheran High School North Principal Tim Brackman.

And there’s room in Lutheran North’s halls for more students. The campus on Lucas and Hunt Road had an enrollment of more than 400 students in the early-2000s but that number has since fallen.

“Currently we’re 250 students and that’s a very stable number for us, but one that we’d like to grow,” Brackman said.

Officials plan to house middle school classes within existing school space and overlap some staff and teachers.

School leaders said demand is strong enough and its recruitment is wide enough that it won’t siphon students from existing Lutheran elementary schools.

“I don’t think that’s the appropriate term,” said Michael Starks, middle school executive director Michael Starks, when asked if the school will steal students from other parochial schools. “I think we’re providing something that parents are asking for.”

Mapbox, Open Street Map
Lutheran North High School's new middle school will be located at its existing building in Jennings.

Students at the high school came from 26 different schools, Brackman said. Forty percent are Lutheran.

Lutheran schools in the north St. Louis metro area have for years been struggling to maintain enrollment.

Our Redeemer Lutheran School in Overland closed this past spring. River Roads Lutheran School in St. Louis’ Baden neighborhood nearly shut down mid-school year before a fundraising effort kept it afloat. It opened this fall with 70 students.

Along with River Roads, three other Lutheran schools offer preschool through eighth grade in north St. Louis and northern St. Louis County.

“We’re happy that another quality Lutheran option will be available to families. We pray that this will not impact enrollment at our elementary schools, which serve the same community,” said Sue Nahmensen, chief executive of Lutheran Elementary School Association, a network of about 30 schools in the St. Louis area, in a statement.

Middle school tuition will be around $8,000 a year, Brackman said, less than the $14,000 for high school.

Lutheran North's middle school is scheduled to open in fall 2019.

Follow Ryan on Twitter: @rpatrickdelaney

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