A Hidden Gem: St. Paul Lutheran School
I arrived at St. Paul Lutheran School about an hour before the St. Paul families were due to arrive to pick up supplies and meet the teachers before school started. It was raining.
Unfortunately, the school had been in the middle of getting a new roof when the rains came, and there were quite a few leaks. You would think that a leaking roof right before the families were due to arrive would have caused mass hysteria, but the teachers and staff of St. Paul Lutheran School were amazingly cheerful and wonderfully serene. They were excited to meet their students (many are younger siblings of prior students) and get the school year off to a great start. The leaks were a minor inconvenience.
Most Fort Worthians are familiar with St. Paul Lutheran Church. The “triangle church” is located right off I-30 near Summit Avenue. But did you know that there is a school attached to the church? There is. St. Paul Lutheran School has been teaching students from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade for 50 years!
As I was touring the campus with Peyton Lauderdale, Community Relations Director for the school, I was surprised by the scope of the campus. Nestled into the side of a hill, hidden from the interstate, 215 students learn, worship, and play. The teachers, many of whom have taught at St. Paul for 15 years or more, provide both scholastic and spiritual guidance, readying their students for their future academic endeavors, as well as their lives in Christ.
Talking to Principal Scott Browning, his enthusiasm and love for the school is infectious. “The campus is super-deceptive; you can’t see it because of the hill,” he said. “We’re a hidden gem right by downtown.” “Peace” and “joy” were words he used more than once in describing this hidden gem’s environment. Students and parents alike feel the peace and joy within these walls only a few minutes of entering the school. “Parents come in stressing over the options [for their children’s education], and then it’s like a weight is lifted off them.”
Lutheran educational outreach has a long history in the United States, and the school is one of the main ministries of St. Paul Lutheran Church. Because the church values Christian education and subsidizes annual tuition costs, more families are able to have access to private education. While the church supports the school, a student does not need to be Lutheran to attend St. Paul. “Our population is about half St. Paul families and about half from the community,” said Browning.
All students from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade receive an academically rigorous education which prepares them either to continue with a parochial education or to enter public school upon leaving St. Paul. In addition, they can grow in their faith through weekly chapel services that are reinforced by daily instruction in their classrooms.
Peyton showed me the distinctive chapel. “Each pre-kindergartener gets a seventh grade Chapel Buddy” who guides the new student through the chapel services. In addition, each teacher has a Chapel Family consisting of students from all grades. The Chapel Families sit together during chapel, allowing St. Paul students to get to know students from other grades. Eighth graders also participate in Coffeehouse. This program allow students to talk about issues facing them, academically, socially, and spiritually, with some of the younger teachers in the context of their faith. These prepare the eighth graders for what they will face in high school and, later, in life.
It is hard to overstate the impact the campus makes. Located right in the middle of Fort Worth, it is convenient for every part of the city. Students come in from Aledo and Arlington. And the location means that many of the classrooms have superb views across downtown. The playground, recently overhauled with funds from the annual fundraising auction and private donations, is a little oasis nestled into the hill.
In subsequent articles, I’ll be focusing on the preschool/elementary school and the middle school at St. Paul Lutheran School. I must say that I cannot wait to go back and meet more of the teachers and staff. So stay tuned! There is more to come…