Bethel Lutheran’s New Morton School Offers Hybrid Christian Education

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MORTON – Meet the ninth grade class of the new Bethel Lutheran High School. There are five students: three boys and two girls.

Two students are from Morton. There is one from Mackinaw, Peoria and Tremont.

The quintet is participating in a pilot program that will assess the effectiveness of a hybrid educational model in person and online.

“We were hoping to have eight to twelve ninth graders in our freshman year of high school,” principal John Jacob said. “Maybe people were concerned because this is a pilot program.

“But I’m excited about what we’re doing. I’m holding on for the ride. That’s where God led me.”

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Bethel Lutheran High School is an extension of Bethel Lutheran School, which opened in 1952 and has been a K-8 school since 1999, five years after it opened at its current location at 325 E. Queenwood Road. Bethel Lutheran Church is attached to the school.

“Change in perception of what a high school could and should be”

“Parents have been asking for years that we open a high school, but it’s difficult for a congregation our size to have a traditional high school,” Jacob said.

“So we created a different kind of high school for families who want their children to receive a Christian education.

“What pushed us towards the reality of a high school was the change in perception of what a high school could and should be.

“Once distance learning became a reality and we discovered the high quality courses that could be delivered through this medium, we realized that it was something we could do on a smaller scale and on a larger scale. lower cost than a traditional high school. “

The Bethel Lutheran Church Voters’ Assembly approved the new high school by an 80-20% vote on June 14. Classes started on August 17th.

Ninth grade students from Bethel Lutheran School's new high school occupy this former Morton Private School library space.

Most of Bethel Lutheran School’s eighth grade students move on to Morton High School after graduation. Others attend schools in the communities where they live: Deer Creek-Mackinaw, East Peoria, Beijing, Peoria Christian, Tremont and Washington high schools.

Four of the five students at Bethel Lutheran High School previously attended Bethel Lutheran School. Two went from K-8. The others started in fifth and eighth grade.

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The other freshman from Bethel Lutheran High School previously attended Tremont schools.

Teachers Karen Duke, Mary Spahr and Emily Wegner have been hired to work with grade nine students at Bethel Lutheran High School.

How Classes Work at School

First-year students receive face-to-face classes in biology, math, language arts, leadership development, and religion, which are taught by pastors.

Geography and electives like foreign languages ​​are taught online, facilitated by teachers.

Donors helped cover the tuition fees of the five freshmen.

“Future high school classes will depend on staff and areas of expertise,” Jacob said. “We are working on a partnership with (Illinois Central College) for dual credit courses and hope people in the trades will talk to our students this year.

“In the long run, we need extracurricular offers like sports. Maybe we can cooperate with other small Christian high schools to form teams, or homeschooled children could take a part-time schedule with us. to join our teams. “

Growing registrations for the Lutheran Bethel

The Kindergarten to Grade 8 enrollment at Bethel Lutheran School this school year is 231, the highest number on record. The previous record was 223 for the 2007-08 school year.

A giant cross is pictured in brick outside the gymnasium at Bethel Lutheran School, attached to Bethel Lutheran Church, at 325 E. Queenwood Road in Morton.

The enrollment was 174 for the 2019-2020 school year and 185 for the 2020-21 school year.

“What is the reason for the surge? Jacob said. “Maybe the state’s educational mandates for public schools. Or, for this school year, maybe our new high school is intriguing families.”

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Jacob, who is also principal of Bethel Lutheran School, said he was not concerned about the fallout with Morton School District because of the new Bethel Lutheran High School.

“The Morton School District has always been very accommodating to us,” he said. “We are working together to ensure that our students are prepared academically, socially and spiritually for the transition to Morton High School.”

The Christian Life Academy in Hopedale, a model for Bethel Lutheran High

Hopedale’s Academy of Christian Life, another small Christian high school in Tazewell County that grew out of a K-8 school, started small with two ninth graders in the 2016-17 school year.

There are 17 high school students in Grades 9-12 this school year, including eight freshmen. Grade 12 was added last year, and the high school had its first two graduates.

Like Bethel Lutheran High School, Christian Life Academy High School uses a hybrid educational model of in-person and online instruction and receives donations to help with programming. The staff is similar to that of Bethel Lutheran High School.

Jacob spoke with Josh Horning, principal of Christian Life Academy K-8 school and high school, as he made plans for Bethel Lutheran High School.

Horning sees growth on the horizon for the high school he oversees.

“A number of families of students in our middle schools (Grades 6 and 8) want their students to continue in our high school, so I anticipate our high school enrollment will increase,” Horning said.

“This is why we are exploring how we can create more classroom space on our campus.”

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Horning said there may be a day when Hopedale Christian Academy and Bethel Lutheran High School will have cooperative prep sports teams.

Hopedale Christian Academy opened in 2008. It has approximately 70 students from Kindergarten to Grade 8 this school year.

“We’re between the mid-60s and mid-70s in kindergarten to grade 8 enrollment since 2011,” Horning said.

Steve Stein can be contacted at (248) 224-2616 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @SpartanSteve.

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