A Thirteenth Feeder School for Mayer Lutheran
Questions and Answers for Adding Grades Six Through Eight at Mayer Lutheran High School
Why is this being considered?
The goal of adding grades 6-8 is to offer the opportunity of a Christian middle school education to families outside our traditional church communities. Preparing the next generation of Christian leaders is needed now, more than ever. By increasing the number of young people on our campus, the goal of that mission can be maximized. When we begin offering middle school, we will be the only stand-alone, independent middle school in the far west metro, a key draw for families who may not approach a school directly attached or owned by a Lutheran congregation. Our curriculum will be Christ-centered and Biblically based, which is highly desirable compared to government-run schools. Finally, we are able to maximize high school resources, materials, and staffing to provide a developmentally-appropriate, robust educational experience.
Why do this now?
Several reasons explain why we would plan to add grades 6-8 beginning the 2023-24 school year. First, the turmoil in public schools in regard to non-traditional social and educational mores has caused families to look for alternatives, especially in the middle school years. The negative effects of the COVID shutdown have encouraged parents to seek alternatives. Second, as Lutheran feeder schools are experiencing significant enrollment growth, some will confront space limitations. We are able to provide assistance by providing an outlet for those schools’ middle grade students. Third, we were provided a one-time financial gift that enables us to provide seed money for this endeavor. Fourth, we have had a growing number of families inquiring about middle school options for their children. Finally, the demographics indicate that a market exists for schooling in the grades we plan to offer.
What do the demographics in our region indicate?
According to the Fullensite Demographic Report, provided by the Lutheran Church Extension Fund on March, 29, 2022, the population in a twenty-mile radius of Mayer is expected to grow from 331,675 in 2026 to 357,753 by 2031 (p.4) and the number of school age children between the ages of 5 and 17 in the same radius are projected to grow from 45,948 in 2026 to 46,208 by 2031 (p.7). By 2026, a projected 17, 931 students of middle school age will reside in our twenty-mile service area. Less than 1,000 of those students attend non-government school feeder schools of all types—Lutheran, Catholic, Charter, Homeschool—so the potential for enrollment seems significant. The increased growth will provide opportunities for enrollment growth at our school, especially as community and feeder schools begin to run out of space due to increased population and the effects of open enrollment.
How will adding grades 6-8 affect the twelve feeder schools who already have the same grades?
In doing research in high schools who have added middle school grades at (Cleveland Lutheran West, St. Louis Lutheran North, St. Croix Lutheran in West St Paul, Martin Luther Lutheran High School in Northrop, MN, and Concordia Prep in Towson, MD), we have found a mix of returns in this area. In areas with greatly diminishing enrollments in the feeders, some schools simply sent their middle grades to the high school (Martin Luther, St. Louis North). In the others, few transferred. Most of our Lutheran elementary schools are the strongest they have been in years. We do not believe that the draw to transfer to Mayer will be as strong as it was before the COVID crisis. Naturally, there may be some transfers, as this is already happening as families look for new middle school opportunities after grade five in many of our feeders.
Why will the supporting Lutheran High School in Mayer Association churches continue to support Mayer Lutheran High School if we offer the same grades?
The very generous support of our Association churches is a key factor that has factored into NOT adding grades, even though the idea has existed for the past seventeen years as seen in the 2006-07 Strategic Plan. The support of the member congregations is intended to support only the high school in Mayer. We will not increase the membership fee because of the additional grades nor will we offer an “Association Tuition Discount” for the middle school.
How will Mayer Lutheran work to not knowingly recruit students from the supporting schools?
First, we will charge a much higher tuition and fees than our current schools charge. Second, we will not provide an association discount for the middle school. Third, financial aid for prospective students from existing feeder schools will be greatly diminished for families looking to make a change. Fourth, we will install protocols in our admission process that will inform feeder school principals as soon as one family from the school contacts us about the Mayer Lutheran Middle School. Fifth, many traditional families in our feeder schools desire in-school chatechesis for their children to avoid having to send their children for confirmation instruction on a weekday evening. We will not offer formal chatechesis in our middle school. Finally, we will only market grades 9-12 in our feeder schools and congregations with schools, not our middle school. Middle school marketing materials and strategy will be directed to the community at large apart from our churches and schools.
Where would Mayer Lutheran hold grades 6-8? Will they need to build additional facilities?
Our “300” classroom wing has three classrooms, restroom facilities, and office space large enough to accommodate three 25-student classrooms along with a unique middle school entrance. This dedicated space would be large enough for seventy-five students. The interest and enrollment in grades six-eight may require future classroom space and we have room from the “300” wing to accommodate future expansion. Gym space, music and art rooms, lunchroom, and other educational and recreational spaces already exist.
What about the teachers who currently teach in the projected classrooms?
The rooms in the “300” hallway are not currently completely utilized. The computer lab will be incorporated with the newly-updated STEM lab. Teachers in the other two classrooms will be “floating” teachers who will teach each period in whatever classroom is available. Teachers who do not have a permanent classroom and “float” are common in most high schools. Our resource room will remain in the “300” hallway at this point.
Will our Association membership cost increase?
The membership cost to the budget of Mayer Lutheran High School will not increase because of the addition of the middle school. It will remain the same as it has for the past fourteen years. Members who may choose to attend the Mayer Lutheran Middle School will not receive an association discount. The support of our faithful congregations will help us meet the high school’s financial needs with the middle school largely supporting itself.
Why should our congregations continue to support the ministry of Mayer Lutheran High School?
An intentional, vibrant, and successful ministry to teenagers is a precious asset to the Church. At the cost of a little more than a dollar a week per communicant member, the twelve Association congregations own and operate a ministry that most, on their own, would be unable to provide. Each year, almost two-hundred young people in the halls of Mayer Lutheran High School hear about Jesus and the salvation He won for them on the cross. They are trained to respond in gratitude to such good news to be servant leaders for Him. Thanks to the traditionally generous support over the past sixty years, Mayer Lutheran sent 3,400 graduates into the world as Christian leaders. As a note on the value to our congregations on their investment at Mayer Lutheran High School, almost 15% of active teachers in the Minnesota South District of the LCMS are graduates from Mayer Lutheran High School.
What about staffing? Will the students be taught by existing high school teachers?
Mayer Lutheran High School teachers will not be the primary teachers for grades 6-8. Our art, music, and physical education teachers may likely be engaged in teaching middle school students along with an occasional upper school teacher from other departments. Our long-term goal is to maintain a uniquely dedicated middle school teaching staff including administration. In our early years, we expect to hire a teaching principal who will have time in the day to plan and execute strategies for strengthening the middle school. This is a common occurrence as several local Lutheran schools have teaching principals who provide outstanding leadership. Depending on enrollment, a second teacher would be needed as well with the Principal teaching grades seven and eight and the second teacher providing a more self-contained classroom environment for grade six. We envision the addition of clerical help for the middle school as well. The office assistant may be a pert-time (less than 30 hours/week) position
Will Mayer Lutheran take teachers from our local Lutheran schools for the new middle school?
In hiring teachers, we traditionally have avoided offering positions to teachers already serving in our feeder schools and we intend to follow that practice as we seek teachers for the middle school. Naturally, in our LCMS calling structure, any teacher may apply for a position in any school that has an opening. Our strength at Mayer Lutheran High School has traditionally relied on strong feeder schools taught by talented and strong teachers. Our desire is not to change that reality.
How many students can we expect to enroll in the middle school?
This answer will only be known once we announce the formation of the school in early 2023. Every school we studied varied based upon their location and situation. Some schools are in states that offer parent choice programs and their schools started with more than seventy students. Others, in more rural areas, saw significantly smaller enrollments. While we do not know the enrollment number now, we would consider full enrollment to be 25 students per classroom with our current facilities.
What about the curriculum?
We anticipate that we will offer a traditionally vibrant curriculum in line with other Christian middle schools. Our differentiator from free community schools will be the intentional Christian frame of reference and a Biblical world view in our curriculum not currently available in government-supported schools. In addition to language, science, math, social studies, and theology, we will have electives in the music, visual arts, physical education,
Will there be help for students with special needs?
Mayer Lutheran has traditionally admitted students with special learning challenges and provided a resource teacher to help them maximize their potential in the classroom. We anticipate that we will continue to do so with middle school students as we are able. Staffing will dictate the extent of help we are able to offer.
What about co-curricular activities?
Mayer Lutheran’s middle school will participate with other middle schools in the Minnesota River Conference athletics. We will also partner with our Mayer Knights youth activities to provide additional opportunities for our middle school-aged students. Music, drama, STEM, robotics, and other existing programs will also welcome middle school students as they have done for years. We will continue to host Minnesota Lutheran Athletic Association events.
Will the wider array of co-curricular activities draw students away from our supporting schools?
This may happen, but it is not our intention to draw from those schools who offer the same activities or sports. Mayer Lutheran already welcomes students from our feeder schools to compete and participate in sports and activities that their schools do not offer such as track and field, soccer, softball, golf, drama, and robotics-STEM.
Do you really expect to open the middle school in the fall of 2023?
We already have classrooms, dining hall, gyms, lockers, theater, and other physical facilities. We have personnel to lead co-curricular activities, recruiting and admissions, financial matters, fundraising, curriculum and teacher development, maintenance and the like. Unlike beginning a brand-new school from a vacant lot, adding three grades is very doable by next fall. It will not be easy, of course, but we pray it will be a terrific addition for families of young people in our region.
How much will adding grades six through eight add to the school’s budget? Can Mayer Lutheran afford to add these grades?
Depending upon enrollment, we anticipate hiring two addition full-time workers and one part-time worker. We estimate $200,000 for salary and benefits based upon the average teacher salary and benefits paid during the 2022-23 school year of $70,000/teacher and other incidental staffing costs such as an office assistant. Most of the fixed costs (insurance, utilities, maintenance, classroom supplies etc.) are already covered in the current budget. With potential tuition and fees of $9,600 for the first year of middle school, as few as twenty-five total students enrolled will cover the anticipated costs. Adding grades six through eight is financially feasible depending on enrollment.
Speaking of enrollment, how many students in each grade will be needed to actually begin school in August? If enrollment projections fall short, how will you make up the income?
As a start-up, we may need to operate the first year with a deficit. We do have savings from a recent tax rebate program related to the CARES Act that is being set apart for making up any shortfalls in adding the three grades. In any school start-up situation, the toughest decision is when to actually open the school. The Middle School Steering Committee and the Board of Directors will wrestle with this challenge.
How will adding grades six through eight affect fundraising?
Anytime we make a significant change, fundraising can be affected. Our prayer is that our many donors will support the Ministry of Mayer Lutheran, including grades six through eight. We can certainly segregate gifts for just one school or the other at the donor’s request, but we would hope our cherished tradition of un-restricted giving will continue. Adding three grades worth of families will increase our potential giving pool of donors. Our sincerest prayer is that those who support the next generation of Christian leaders with their sacrificial gifts will continue to do so and, as stakeholders in our ministry, be willing and open to share advice and counsel as we have enjoyed for many decades.
How can I learn more about this initiative? How am I able to share my ideas and concerns?
As we gather more information and make further plans for the addition of the three grades, we will provide news online through our website, social media, and monthly newsletters. The Executive Director is always eager to discuss any Mayer Lutheran news, ideas, dreams, concerns, and criticisms personally through a meeting, phone call, or email. He can be reached at 952.657.2251 ext. 1007 or firstname.lastname@example.org.