Immanuel After COVID

Jackson Bush

Immanuel welcomes David Pridgen despite challenging times.                (Jackson Bush )

The sun rises on another day of students bustling from their cars to their classrooms as Immanuel Lutheran Christian Academy opens for the school year. The times have changed, however, and new circumstances set this year apart from any other. Headmaster Stephen Zehnder reflected on some of these differences.

“We were very hopeful to open during the Coronavirus pandemic. We lost 10 total families in the entire school,” Zehnder said.

Families had to make tough choices this summer, including the decision to have their children remain home for the school year.

“Since I became headmaster in 2016, the school has seen an increase of students every year until now,” Zehnder said. 

While the infamous virus may have inhibited the return of some students during this school year, Zehnder is hopeful for potential growth in the coming years. 

“We try to add better curriculums for students, bring in new tech, and add to the school with new programs,” Zehnder said. 

These new programs include both the Discover Immanuel program (where new students have the opportunity to experience the school at a lower cost) as well as the Fine Arts Academy, which supports the development of musical talent in an extracurricular setting. 

“With our programs, we can bring in more financial aid for the goal of finding a high school building,” Zehnder said. 

Zehnder looks forward to the addition of a high school facility but does not see this culmination in the foreseeable future.

“We’ll keep focused on what God wants us to do, and he will bless us,” Zehnder said. 

Before the Coronavirus, Immanuel strived to gather many young minds under one roof. Mrs. Katherine McGrew was the headmaster from 2002-2016 and has seen the growth of the school from its inception. 

“We always tried to market the school for smaller class sizes. At the time, schools were less safe, and parents were scared. I sometimes feel bad for marketing this way,” McGrew said. 

Marketing becomes invaluable for growing a school such as Immanuel, and it must evolve to fit the newest concerns of parents and students alike.

“Our school has always tried to bring in new families by trying new things-new programs-and in doing so we became a hallmark of small Lutheran school,” McGrew said. 

While the initial growth of the school hinged on the marketing efforts of a small foundation, Immanuel now wishes to grow beyond these limitations. With the planned future of a high school building, the question is whether or not students will choose to stay for high school. 

“We need to continue to have special programs in the high school. We also need to focus on middle school and make it cool,” Mcgrew said. 

Mrs. Ginger Hendricks, who has served as the science teacher for eight years also agrees with this sentiment.

“I believe parents need to invest in their child’s education. Come be a part of your child’s classroom,” Hendricks said. 

The essence of gathering students for the school also allows for the inclusion of specific kinds of students.

“We are geared toward the excellence of students’ abilities,” Hendricks said. 

A key target demographic is the high school, and senior Emily Clark has had years to learn how the high school system operates. 

“The elementary is doing great, but they start to leave once they get older,” Clark said. 

Emily is currently enrolled in dual credit courses outside of Immanuel, and she believes that added classes could increase the student population.

“The environment is great, but if one student decides to leave, their close friends will want to leave also,” Clark said. 

The expressed interest in students’ safety and comfortability is apparent at Immanuel, and both students and faculty hold onto hope that growth will continue for the years to come.