Walther Christian Academy lower school, 305 Circle Ave., will transfer its operations to Melrose Park next year, moving into St. Paul Lutheran School at 1025 W. Lake St., just next door to Walther Christian Academy High School.
“Our parking lots will be touching,” said James Craven, Walther High School’s head.
Craven said the move will make it easier for the whole Walther school system to share resources, such as busing which starts next year.
“We will be able to share teachers. Eighth-grade students in the middle school will be able to take algebra or integrated science at the high school.”
Notices were sent to parents at Walther lower school before the school year ended, Craven said.
St. Paul in Melrose Park will close its doors June 30, said Craven, who hopes the 67 students currently enrolled at St. Paul will continue with Walther. There are currently 75 students at Walther lower school, located in the former St. John Lutheran school building. Craven’s wife, Kathryn Craven, is head of the lower school. Nine students who attend the Forest Park school live in Forest Park, James Craven said.
“We’re hoping for anything over 110 [students]. I think we’ll be closer to 120 and we’ll build from there,” he said.
“We will offer the full arts program, choir, band, and specialized teachers at the middle-school level,” he added. “We’re hoping that will start pulling some new people in.”
There has been a school at St. John Church in Forest Park since 1870.
This year marked the end for another private church-run school in Forest Park. St. Bernardine’s Catholic School at 815 Elgin Ave. closed in June after enrollment dipped below 100 students for several years and an archdiocese takeover plan could not raise resources to save the school.
“We thought we might get some students from St. B’s,” Craven said. “But that didn’t happen. They went elsewhere.”
Plans are unclear as to whether a new school will take over the facilities at St. John. The church has been conducting a community survey among neighbors to find out what services the church can provide to develop programming that has meaning for the neighborhood, Rev. Leonard Payton said.
Payton said the move “makes a lot of sense” for Walther and that the school had been using the facilities at St. John’s rent-free. “It’s an amicable transition,” he said.
“If a school approaches us, we’ll think about it. If a fitness center approaches us, we’ll think about anything.”
Becoming a vigorous church in Forest Park is the goal of the congregation, Payton said, and that means staying, “intentionally local.”
“We’ve had interest in preschool and interest in after school care,” Payton said.
As for the future of the school building?
“We may end up doing something very, very different with this building. There are all kinds of ideas afoot. We want to hear from the neighborhood, what do you think is missing that would make it a better place?” Payton asked.
Read more in the Jan. 1 edition of Forest Park Review.