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A Return to the One-Room School House

(By Chris Williams, Austin {Minn.} Daily Herald, February 28, 1999)

It is a mix of Biblical teaching, traditionalism, and old-fashioned values designed to help prepare students for the modern world.

St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran School began teaching students in the fall of 1972 with 29 students and two teachers to assist the parents of the congregation in providing a Christ-centered education.

Twenty-six years later, the school still continues to teach and train students in grades one through eight.

St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church is a member of the Church of the Lutheran Confession Synod. The church and school were located for many years on 9th Place SW next to the bandshell. The floods of the ’70s and early ’90s forced the congregation to move more than two years ago from the stone building to a new church and school on 16th St. SW next to the Southgate Elementary.

Today, the school has twelve students and one teacher. St. Paul’s pastor, Stephen Kurtzahn, said the school runs much like the old country schools of the past, with all grades congregated in one room where one teacher divides her time to teach all classes. In the school, there is one first grader, two second graders, four fifth graders, three seventh graders and two eighth graders.

The members of the congregation still subsidize the school, making it affordable to the families the school serves. The school is open to members and non-members.

Kurtzahn said there are things that separate St. Paul’s school from others.

“We provide the fundamental academic skills that children need in today’s world along with instilling in them that God’s Son came to this earth to save us from our sins,” he said. “St. Paul’s, unlike many other Lutheran churches in our day, still believes and teaches that the Bible is the inspired Word of God without mistakes or errors in it.”

Teacher Karen Strike was called by the congregation to teach at the school and began this fall. She is formerly from Fridley, Minn., where she taught at a CLC Synod church school. She lives in Austin with her husband Ron.

Strike is a strong believer in Christian education. She has been teaching in the CLC Synod for seven years off and on. She enjoys being in Austin, teaching at the school.

“I really enjoy these children,” she said, “They are a joy to be with.”

The teacher usually works with one subject and one class at a time. The other classes are normally doing assignments or projects while she works with the class.

Strike said that it is a challenge to teach all grades, but there are advantages. Because of the small class sizes, she said that she can usually work with the students more at their own pace.

She also said that she believes because of the one-room scenario, there is an advantage that the students seem to care for one another more, especially between the older and younger children.

Strike said she hopes she can make an impact with her students.

“I want to teach them to be good citizens and learn to enjoy living,” she said.