St. John Lutheran to start new preschool two years after longtime PreK–8 school’s closure

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Open House
The St. John Lutheran School building will become a preschool in the fall of 2021. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)
By Josh Bootsma

LANSING, Ill. (April 13, 2021) – After two vacant years, the school wing of St. John Lutheran Church will again be used to teach students. The church congregation voted on Sunday to start a preschool at St. John, hoping to invite three- and four-year olds into the building starting in the fall.

Bringing students back

In 2019, St. John Lutheran School celebrated its 125th year of Christian education. The year was also its last. Unable to sustain the school in light of increasing financial burdens and declining enrollment, the longtime school, which served preschoolers through eighth graders, closed.

“We’ve been talking about this for the last year or so — about what to do with the school, what to do with the facility,” said St. John Lutheran Pastor Dr. John Richy. “The idea is to reach out [to the] community, and this [preschool] seems to be the first step.”

Richy said the church’s Vision Committee started planning early in the year how to better engage with the community. With the school building largely unused, the church decided to pursue opening a new preschool there. On Sunday, that vision was made official.

St. John Lutheran
The doors of St. John Lutheran School were open for 125 years to local students. St. John plans to open them again this fall. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

Preschool for everyone

The school will likely open after Labor Day this year and offer a few different options for families with different needs and schedules, Richy said. The current plan is to have preschool in the mornings for three- and four-year olds, with parents able to sign up for every day of the week or alternating days.

St. John Lutheran
Rev. Dr. John Richy (Photo from stjohnlutheranlansing.org)

Additionally, Richy said afternoons would likely be a time for “pre-kindergarten” students. “That’s for families who missed the cut-off date for kindergarten, so where do they go? They’re not preschool but you want to start them off learning to read and things like that,” Richy said.

The school will offer a traditional preschool experience while also teaching children about Christianity. Families from all faith backgrounds are welcome to enroll, however.

The church will hire a director for the preschool, an aide, and possibly more staff, depending on how many students enroll. Richy said the church is expecting to hire Diana Maanum as the director. Maanum has experience teaching preschool and kindergarten at a Lutheran School in Chicago.

Registration and community orientation

“It has always been a fundamental mission of our church to reach out and educate children, and give them a Christian education. That’s always been the goal,” Richy said. “We don’t want to be segregated from the community, we want to be part of the community and share what we have, and help people out in some way. So here’s another beginning.”

Parents interested in the new preschool are invited to call St. John Lutheran Church for more information: 708-895-9240.

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