Next fall, four seventh graders will become the first eighth-grade class at Good Shepherd Lutheran School in Columbia. The school has announced the addition of an eighth grade at the start of the 2009-2010 school year.
Principal Greg Hasseldahl said the addition has been in the works since the school opened in 2002. He said it was never a matter of if, but rather when the grade would be added.
The four current seventh-grade students have all pledged to come back next year to form the first eighth-grade class. Hasseldahl said the school has received "substantial commitments" from sixth-grade parents as well.
"We provide a top quality education in an environment that is shaped by Christian beliefs, and our parents really wanted the chance to extend that education for another year. Junior high is a critical age for children in many ways, and we partner with parents to help guide their children through this time of rapid growth," said Hasseldahl.
John Kruse, a parent of one seventh-grade student, said he attended board meetings with other parents and advocated heavily for the eighth-grade addition. Kruse said there was "broad support" for the additional grade among parents and the parental support was "a big factor" in the decision.
Kruse said the school has been an excellent experience for his son, Luke, and both the academics and the religious training are critical elements of the school. He also added the small classroom environment has helped his son excel both academically and socially, giving him meaningful interaction with teachers and peers in an environment that is not as overwhelming as a large public school.
When asked about adding more school grades in the future, Hasseldahl said it was a possibility. . But, he does not know when that addition will occur.
The school, which is located on the lower level of Trinity Lutheran Church, currently enrolls 96 students in grades kindergarten through seventh. The school originally opened in 2002 with seven students.
"We've had very nice growth," said Hasseldahl, "(now) we need to get our footing well established with the elementary school."
The school owns 12 acres of land and will eventually begin building a permanent school. A building committee has been established and funding will be the next step. Hasseldahl said he does not know when this next step will begin. Currently, the school has enough room for an eighth-grade addition at the Trinity Lutheran Church. Hasseldahl foresees needing to add a modular classroom in three years to accommodate class growth.
Kruse believes the new eighth grade will become a solid class of 20 or more kids in the future. He is excited his son has the opportunity for one more year in the smaller environment before he has to make a jump to a bigger school. The Kruses do not know yet whether Luke will stay in Columbia for high school, or whether he will commute to the Lutheran high school in Jefferson City.
Good Shepherd Lutheran School's registration for the 2009-2010 school year began March 1.