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Elgin school closing after 19 years

ELGIN¬†(CHICAGOPRESSRELEASE.COM)¬† — Fox Valley Lutheran Academy announced last week it will close its doors at the end of the school year, but some area Lutherans say it just ends a chapter, not the whole story.

It’s the second time Fox Valley residents have seen dissolution of their Lutheran high school, both times the result of financial strain. Still, educators are optimistic about the future of Lutheran secondary education in the region.

The announcement comes in the middle of plans to build a new Lutheran high school in unincorporated St. Charles, scheduled to open in the next two to three years. It was intended for FVLA to merge into that school, but budget constraints instead have forced its closure.

For years, FVLA has been operating under a mounting deficit, according to an e-mail sent last week to Valley Alumni Association, which includes graduates of FVLA and the former Valley Lutheran High School in St. Charles.

“Due to that accumulating debt reaching a limit the school could no longer increase, it was decided to suspend the current FVLA ministry operation at the end of this school year,” the e-mail stated.

The decision to close was “difficult, but necessary,” according to the message.

Economic recession coupled with higher tuition and falling enrollment are factors affecting private schools nationwide, but FVLA has been challenged from its beginning.

It launched so students who previously attended Valley Lutheran might have a place to continue faith-based learning. Valley operated from 1974 to 1991 before financial hardship forced the sale of its campus on Route 31 overlooking the Fox River.

FVLA never had its own building. During its 19 years, it borrowed classrooms from Bethlehem Lutheran Church in St. Charles, St. John’s Lutheran Church in Roselle and St. Paul United Church of Christ in downtown Elgin. From 1992 to 2002, it included a sixth- through eighth-grade middle school program.

This school year, FVLA relocated to space at Good Shepherd Lutheran School on Elgin’s west side. At the same time, its enrollment dropped from 23 students the previous school year to merely eight — four freshmen, one sophomore and three juniors. In fall of 2009, it discontinued Falcons athletic programs, and with no seniors, there won’t be a graduation ceremony to mark the school’s last year.

Even so, Principal Jan Burmeister said this year has been a memorable one, perhaps because of the changes. Fewer students made it possible to take more field trips. And a small student body has fostered close friendships.

“This has been a really good year, a really positive year with the kids,” said Burmeister, who came to FVLA in 1998. “We’re very thankful for what we’ve had, and I think that’s what everyone is focusing on.”

Burmeister declined to comment on what will happen to her job and those of two part-time staff members as a result of the closing but said students already are seeking other options. Some visited Westminster Christian School in Elgin on Thursday, and a group is checking out Faith Lutheran High School in Crystal Lake on Monday. Some families also are exploring public schools, she said.

“It would have been neat to stay open until the new school opens, but the idea of the new school is still so exciting,” Burmeister said. “Sometimes, you have to make tough decisions to show that you’re planning ahead.”

Read the original article from WBBM News Radio.

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