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Central Lutheran School is building up STEAM

Posted on 08 August 2016 by Calvin

Story and photos by MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN

Central Lutheran School (CLS) has been around for a long time. While they’ve been in their current location at 775 Lexington Ave. since 1951, the school had its origins 120 years ago—started by German immigrants who sought to build a school before they built a church.

These days, the school is serving children from many different cultures. According to head administrator Elizabeth Wegner, “Our student body is more diverse than the Hamline Midway neighborhood it sits in. We have students from Ethiopia, Eritrea,  as well as from families who have been anchored in St. Paul for generations.”

“CLS doesn’t follow the usual parochial school model of one church – one school,” Wegner explained. “We’re the product of an association between four neighborhood churches: St. Stephanus, Jehovah Lutheran, Emmaus Lutheran and Bethel Lutheran.”

CLS 04Photo left: Elizabeth Wegner in the café-gymna-chapel-atorium. She said, “While CLS offers a Christ-centered learning environment, we have students from many denominations and plenty of kids whose parents don’t go to church at all.”

The school is switching to a new curriculum this year grounded in science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics (STEAM). Wegner, along with board member Kerri Miesen, expressed their commitment to the curriculum change and said they have the staff to make it succeed. “Our staff is experienced, energetic and unified as a team,” Miesen reflected. “We believe we have a real service to offer to the community.”

CLS serves a wider than usual age range: T-8, with “T” standing for toddler. As of Aug. 1, their newly licensed Toddler Room will be available for children ages 16-36 months. The Toddler Room will be staffed with two teachers, taking up to 14 children at a time.

There are two levels of preschool at CLS: one for three-year-olds and one for four-year-olds. Kindergarten is a stand-alone grade; grades 1-2, 3-4, 5-6 and 7-8 are combined classes. Wegner said, “If enrollment in any of the combined classes exceeds 25, the grades will be split.”

CLS 18Photo left: The newly-licensed Toddler Room will open its doors on Aug. 1. The idea for having a Toddler Room came out of conversations with parents of older students.

Wegner, who also serves as the school music director, has been with CLS for 18 years. In that time, she has seen a lot of changes in education. “We’re a small school with big opportunities in academics, as well as extra-curricular activities,” she said. “We’re proud of our new STEAM curriculum, a variety of sports, visual arts, and instrumental and vocal music offerings .”

She continued, “More than 85% of our students are involved in music ensemble of some sort. Opportunities beyond general music start in 2nd grade with Orff Ensemble, a method of music instruction that combines singing, dancing, acting and use of percussion instruments. Junior chorus and orchestra are available in 3rd grade, with band being added in 4th grade. The upper grades can participate in orchestra, band, concert choir, hand bells, and/or hand chimes.”

Wegner estimated that K-8 registration will hover around 95 students this year.

“The crash of 2008 really took a hit on our enrollment numbers,” she said. “We’d like to see those numbers rise to 140-150 students again. All students are welcome here, and we try hard to make tuition affordable for every student whose family wants them to attend.”

CLS is currently offering a $500 reduction in tuition for newly enrolled students. Additional scholarships are available through the school’s Jayson Fund for grades K-8, and through www.thinksmall.org for preschool students. For more information or to schedule a tour of the school, contact Elizabeth Wegner at ewegner@clssp.org.

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