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Faith Lutheran school in Crystal Lake closes after 15 years

Private school offered faith-based education for 15 years

Faith Lutheran teacher and interm principal Laurie Mathiesen hugs a graduate after their commencement ceremony at St. John's Lutheran Church on Saturday, May 18, 2019 in Union. The school will close its doors for the final time at the end of this school year.
Faith Lutheran teacher and interm principal Laurie Mathiesen hugs a graduate after their commencement ceremony at St. John's Lutheran Church on Saturday, May 18, 2019 in Union. The school will close its doors for the final time at the end of this school year.

Faith Lutheran High School has closed after 15 years of operation.

The Crystal Lake school at
174 McHenry Ave. had faced years of declining enrollment and financial struggles.

“It is with a heavy heart that Faith Lutheran must announce the closing of our school at the end of the 2018-19 school year,” a message posted to the school’s website said. “We would like to thank all of our students, parents, staff, board members, delegates, volunteers, and donors for their support and hard work throughout the last 15 years. ... May God bless you all and guide you into the next chapter of your life in Christ.”

The school was a collective of several churches of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod Inc. It was established in 2004.

Last summer, students, parents and staff successfully raised tens of thousands of dollars to keep the school open during the 2018-19 academic year. ​Laurie Mathiesen served as interim principal during the 2018-19 school year. Mathiesen couldn’t be reached for comment.

Still, the school was unable to increase enrollment, said parent, volunteer and school delegate Laura Dykstra.

“It was God that did everything to keep the school open for another year,” she said.

Dykstra said the closing came as a surprise to some because earlier this year the school announced it would move from its Crystal Lake location to 6506 National St. in Union, which houses the Evergreen Academy alternative school.

“This move will give Faith a new home from which to continue and grow its mission of providing high-quality Lutheran secondary education to students in McHenry County and the surrounding area,” the school’s board of directors said in a statement at the time.

McHenry County Assistant Regional Superintendent of Schools Mike Freeman said Marengo-Union Elementary School District 165 owns the Union school building and rents it to the Evergreen Academy. Freeman said Faith Lutheran “never moved in” and canceled plans to do so about a month after the move was announced.

“I think everyone is sad that it’s closing even after we thought a next chapter would start in Union,” Dykstra said. Still, she’s confident all Faith Lutheran students will find a place at other area schools.

“It does seem like God is providing the right place for each student,” she said. “So it’s difficult to be really disappointed even though we hoped that it would continue. It was 15 years of a really good thing.”

Dykstra said her son will finish his high school career at Woodstock North High School.

Pastor Caleb Schauer of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Union had two sons graduate from Faith Lutheran and his daughter would have been a sophomore there next year.

“Obviously, we’re saddened but we know that God’s in charge and there must be better things on the horizon,” he said, adding that some students are taking the closure better than others.

“I think there’s mixed reactions,” he said. “Some are taking it OK and some a little harder.”

His son Gideon Schauer graduated with honors last week.

“Faith was family to him,” Caleb Schauer said.

A closing ceremony for Faith Lutheran will be held at 4 p.m. June 23 at St. John’s in Union, 6821 Main St., with a potluck to follow, according to a message posted on the school’s Facebook page.

The school started in St. John’s Lutheran Church in Union. It had just over 100 students enrolled in 2016, school officials said at the time.

About 25% of Faith Lutheran’s budget was funded by donations that came from association churches and their members. ​About 45% of the school’s families were members of an LCMS association church, 30% were members of Protestant or Catholic churches and 25% did not have a church home or are believers of a different faith, according to data from the school’s website.

Member churches were 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.

Crystal Lake senior city planner Elizabeth Maxwell said the property is for sale. She said the city hopes the site will one day house condos or apartments.

“We would like to see it redeveloped and used,” she said.

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