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Central Lutheran School seeks $450,000 in GoFundMe campaign

Posted on 07 May 2018 by Calvin

‘In order to pay our faculty, staff, and many bills, we must raise lots of money quickly.’

Staff members hope that a GoFundMe campaign will keep Central Lutheran School (CLS) open. The 130-year-old school (775 Lexington Pkwy. N.) seeks to raise $450,000 through the campaign, enough to cover payroll and pay down old debt.

Photo right: Citing deep financial trouble, Central Lutheran School launches GoFundMe campaign to raise $450,000 and keep the school doors open. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

This may give the school time to reboot and move to a new funding model, according to Principal Elizabeth Wegner.

She pointed out that staff has spent the last eight months getting the school’s books and accounts in workable shape to try to understand its cash flow issues. An angel donor paid for accounting services, which provided staff its first accurate numbers in January.

“Now, we have a good grip on our issues,” said Wegner. “We needed to get the word out quickly and involve more than our usual mailing list.”

“The story is simple. We are in deep financial trouble,” explains the GoFundMe page. “In order to pay our faculty, staff, and many bills, we must raise lots of money quickly. If we don’t, the great things we do for Jesus at CLS will end, and the school will close. Act now and be very generous, more generous than you thought you could. It is time to SOS (Save Our School).”

In its first 18 days, the GoFundMe campaign had raised $10,321.

As the school struggles to find new revenue streams, the five full-time and two part-time teachers who manage the 80 students in the K-8 school have been working at lower pay for the last couple of months. The school’s separate year-round toddler care and preschool section, with 34 students, gets some state and county funding.

The funding model of the one-story 27,000-square-foot yellow brick school building has changed over the years. While tuition covered most expenses at one time, today roughly 80% of CLS students receive some form of financial aid, and more than half receive free or reduced-price lunches. Only about five families can pay the full tuition.

The mission-based school does not turn away students based on financial need.

A chunk of the school’s $950,000 operating budget is paid by four Lutheran churches: Bethel Lutheran, Emmaus Lutheran, Jehovah Lutheran, and St. Stephanus Lutheran.

Immigrants have always been part of CLS
Students and families come from many different ethnic, economic and religious backgrounds.

In the last 5-6 years, the ethnic profile at CLS has changed drastically.

“We went from about 70% white and 30% other to 50% white, 30% African American with a large portion of that number being immigrants from East Africa (Eritrea and Ethiopia), 15% Karen and 5% other,” remarked Wegner. “This brings challenges in the areas of ability to pay tuition, as families achieve their footing in a new country, and also language barriers. However, we are still close-knit and revel in our differences.”

The school itself was started by immigrants from Germany, who started their school before they’d even started their churches.
When the school association came together and built the current facility, there were about 600 students attending.

These association churches experienced a shift in membership as people moved from the city to the suburbs in the 1970s and 80s, taking members to other churches. That, in turn, affected enrollment and funding at CLS, as did the 2008 recession.

When Wegner and her husband started at CLS, K-8 enrollment was 225 with a small preschool.

A family affair
CLS has been a family affair for the Wegners.

“From when we first walked in when we were looking for first grade for our son, there was a feeling of family and community,” remarked Wegner. “This atmosphere, plus a Christ-centered focus and our commitment to mission and ministry at CLS, keeps us at this school.”

Her son Ben graduated from eighth grade at CLS in 2006, and her daughter Abby in 2009. Both are now educators. Husband Bruce is the head custodian.

Wegner began working at CLS as the music director in 1998. In 2014, the school board asked her to take on administrative duties, as well.

She’s found much to love about CLS.

Diversity sets school apart
“Other than the big draw of family and community, the rising level of diversity sets us apart,” Wegner observe. “Also, because of combined grades, each child has a two-year relationship with each teacher (except kindergarten which is a single grade). We all know each student and family very well.”

In knowing each child personally, the staff knows their strengths and challenges. “We work together to address these,” Wegner pointed out. For example, if an upper-grade student has trouble in reading, a lower grade teacher is right there to suggest other resources.

There is a time in the day for Reader Friends during which older students and younger students read together.

Because CLS only uses St. Paul Public School busing in the afternoon, its school day is 7 hours long. This allows for a 25-minute outdoor recess period for each class every day.

CLS implemented a new curriculum in 2016 grounded in science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics (STEAM). The school also offers social studies, art, music (vocal and instrumental) and PE throughout the school year instead of by quarter or trimester. Plus, students compete on sports teams, play in musical ensembles, and participate in choir trips. Students focus on giving back to their community and recently donated Play-Doh to the cancer ward at Children’s Hospital.

Wegner hopes people consider donating through the GoFundMe campaign, and she also asks for prayer.

“Come over and visit us. Meet our faculty and kids,” she encouraged. “Spread the word!”

To donate to the GoFundMe campaign go online to www.gofundme.com/saving-central-lutheran-school.

For more information or to schedule a tour of the school, contact Elizabeth Wegner at ewegner@clssp.org.

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