Teresa Steger is concerned about the spiritual and academic education of her daughter, Kelly -- and she's hoping a new Lutheran middle school somewhere in North County will become a reality.
Although Kelly is only in the first grade at St. Paul's Lutheran School in Glen Burnie, Steger believes a new middle school, maybe even a high school, will help continue her daughter's good start.
Steger was one of about 35 parents from Lutheran churches throughout the county attending a meeting last night to gauge support for creating the county's first Lutheran middle or high school. To be successful, church officials say the school would have to draw students from 17 to 20 Lutheran churches in the county as well as non-Lutheran students.
"I'm in favor of the plan because I am very pleased with the school, and there's not a (public) middle school in the area that I am comfortable with," Steger said.
If the plan is successful, a new middle school and possibly high school could be built within five years -- in time for young Lutherans like Kelly.
Ruth Ermeling, principal of St. Paul's, is among the leaders of the effort.
St. Paul's has pre-kindergarten through sixth grade, but Ermeling said a large number of parents are interested in continuing the same curriculum at least until students are ready for high school.
"The Lutheran education has a long history of offering quality education and meeting or exceeding the states' standards," Ermeling said. "It offers a caring environment with a quality Christian education."
Success will hinge on getting enough parents and Lutheran congregations to back it, Ermeling said. Ironically, similar plans have been voted down at St. Paul's because of the fear that the church would have to foot the entire bill.
"On two separate occasions we considered starting seventh and eighth grades," she said. "Some wanted to invest further funds, but we came away defeated. We're trying to see if we can't have such a school supported by several avenues."
Ermeling is counting on a coalition of parents from throughout the county to make a difference this time.
"Our hope is to select a steering committee representing the different interest groups, whether from the congregation or people in the community," she said. "We need people with different skills, but the primary source is parents with young children who see this as a real possibility."
Since the county public schools use the middle school concept, Ermeling said she would like to be able to offer a continuation of Lutheran studies through the middle grades.
A new Lutheran middle school, which couldn't be accommodated at St.
Paul's without new construction, could be located in North County or in a central location, Ermeling said. The new school would serve the entire county and run independently, she said. St. Paul's would likely merge into the new school.
The church now subsidizes the elementary school, providing 50 percent of its $300,000 operating budget for the 180 students in pre-kindergarten through sixth grades.
If a new school is successful, Ermeling said other Lutheran schools will have to work together to avoid duplicating services.
Already Margy Wolfe, principal at St. Martin's Lutheran School, has pledged support for the plan. Though she could not attend the meeting, a representative from the Annapolis school was sent to the meeting.
"Parents are very interested and anxious to get a Lutheran middle and high school," Wolfe said. "They will be able to go from our school right into a middle and high school. The big advantage is a child from our private school could go into another Lutheran atmosphere. They are here because parents are interested in Christian training as well as the academics."
St. Martin's also has grades pre-kindergarten through sixth grade.
"Historically, we try to work together," Ermeling said. "There are so many factors. I see it taking three to five years, but it all depends upon the kinds of resources available. The biggest questions now are where to build it and how to fund it."