The day started in prayer and ended in praise.
Faith Lutheran High School’s Board of Delegates voted Thursday to keep the school open, meaning about two dozen seniors can graduate with their friends. The meeting was closed to the public, so more than a dozen students waited outside for the verdict.
The school, 174 McHenry Ave. in Crystal Lake, has been facing declining enrollment and debt. Last month, board members recommended that the school close immediately unless $150,000 could be raised to help cover costs.
Students, parents and staff raised that amount through car washes, a GoFundMe campaign and appeals to area churches.
“We talked to every Lutheran church in the area,” said 17-year-old Gabby German of Crystal Lake. “We gave it our best effort.”
German, who is first in her class and student council president, helped organize fundraisers and managed the GoFundMe page.
“Everyone cares about the school so much,” German said, adding that she would lose her class standing if forced to attend another school. “There will always be people fighting for its survival.”
Alyssa Pedersen, a 16-year-old senior, said she has been telling “literally everyone” to support the school.
“Although some people have come and gone over the last three years, we’ve made a really strong group and connection with the people who have stayed,” Pedersen said.
Jennifer Natysek, a 17-year-old senior, said the school is a welcoming place, which is why she started “bawling” when she learned the school could close.
“My immediate reaction was ‘What am I going to do without the people that I love, because I love everybody at this school,’ ” she said.
Twenty-five students graduated in May. The school has fewer than 100 students.
“It feels amazing,” said Tracy Laws, a former teacher, board member and parent of a graduate. “The teachers have helped my son, who has special needs. He wouldn’t be where he’s at without them. There’s no bullies here. He came from a school where he was bullied constantly. ... These kids helped him. They became his friend, and they changed his life.”
Science teacher and Delegate Laurie Mathiesen said, “We’re planning on staying open for as long as we can.”
“This is huge for me,” she said. “This is a mission that’s been in my heart since Day 1.”
She said the vote “wasn’t close.”
About 25 percent of Faith Lutheran’s budget is funded by donations that come from association churches and their members.
About 45 percent of the school’s families are members of a Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod association church, 30 percent are members of Protestant or Catholic churches and
25 percent do not have a home church or are believers of a different faith, according to data from the school’s website.
Member churches are St. John’s Lutheran Church in Algonquin, Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Cary, Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Crystal Lake, Immanuel Lutheran Church in Crystal Lake, St. Peter Lutheran Church in Gilberts, St. Paul Lutheran Church in Harvard, Trinity Lutheran Church in Huntley, St. John Lutheran Church in Island Lake, Zion Lutheran Church in Marengo, Fellowship of Faith in McHenry, Zion Evangelical Church in McHenry, St. John’s Lutheran Church in Union and St. John’s Lutheran Church in Woodstock.