Another Beloit school seeks vouchers

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Hillary Gavan/Beloit Daily News St. John's Lutheran Church Rev. Dennis Roser and Lutheran Schools Urban Mission Initiative, Inc. Executive Vice President Shaun Luehring stand in front of St. John's. The church will be opening a private school in fall of 2019 and will apply to become part of the Wisconsin Parental Choice Program so it can accept school vouchers.

BELOIT - Another school in Beloit will be accepting voucher students.

St. John's Lutheran Church, 1000 Bluff St., is gearing up to open a private school in fall of 2019 and will be applying to become part of the Wisconsin Parental Choice Program. Currently, Rock County Christian School is the only other school in Beloit accepting voucher students.

St. John's operated a private school from 1951 through 2013. It has the space available for classrooms and would first open for 4K through fourth grades with eventual plans to accept 4K through eighth grade students, according to Rev. Dennis Roser.

The school would be operated by Lutheran Schools Urban Mission Initiative (LUMIN). 

Shaun Luehring, executive vice president of LUMIN Schools, said the organization operates schools in Milwaukee and Racine and is tied to the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod.

Luehring said LUMIN has high rankings at its schools. For example, LUMIN has six schools on the state report card - five in Milwaukee and one in Racine. Two of them met expectations, two exceeded expectations and two significantly succeeded expectations.

"Ninety-five percent of our students are low-income and the high majority of them in Milwaukee are African-American or Hispanic," Luehring said.

Luehring said the school culture is intentionally rigorous as well as joyful.

"We spend a lot of time on student relationships, helping them to create and become part of a culture that is motivational and safe," he said.

Although school won't start until fall of 2019, Roser said parents can start the voucher application process in February through March. Those interested in more information can contact Roser at 608-713-2050 or dennismroser@gmail.com or Luehring at 414-721-8980 or at luehring@luminschools.org.

Those who don't qualify for a voucher or who live in Illinois are also invited to enroll and would pay tuition.

Up to 260 students could be accommodated. Those with LUMIN are hoping to help minority students get a better education as there is an educational crisis in urban environments, Luehring said. 

Because St. John's was a school previously it has 13 classrooms, a full gymnasium, a lunchroom, handicap-accessible restrooms and entrances as well as a playground and fenced-in parking lot.

"This is a turnkey operation," Roser said.

Luehring said a nurturing and safe environment is critical for learning as students need to feel emotionally safe enough to take risks and learn.

"We address problems head-on and proactively," Luehring said.

Every student and family who walks in the door gets greeted. It will also offer a character education program with assemblies each week as well as weekly chapel services.

"You have to teach children culture and character," Luehring said.

Any child of any faith background is welcome. 

The school is non-selective and will work with special education students and help students get any necessary mental health service needed.

Roser said the church feels it's necessary to do good works in the community and opening the school is a way to help.

"We have a full school ready to go. We can have a great impact and bless our community in a lot of ways through this asset provided by our fore bearers," Roser said.

"We want to come in and serve the immediate community with intentional, joyful and rigorous culture. There are high expectations but also a lot of joy and love and relationships in the process," Luehring said. "Our goal is to make sure college is possible for all our graduates."

The school is beginning to market itself and will be presenting informational materials in Spanish. It will also be scheduling open houses and working to building community partnerships.

Rock County Christian School Head of School Tim Befus said his school has 229 total students registered for the fall and 184 of those use vouchers.

"Some of our classes are at capacity and we are putting new students in those classes on a waiting list," he said. 

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