Funding woes cause closure of St. Paul parochial school after almost 130 years

Central Lutheran School needed $450,000 to stay open this year.
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Efforts to keep Central Lutheran School in St. Paul open have ultimately failed, with the school announcing it will not open for students this fall.

The school had launched a fundraising drive earlier this year, desperately trying to raise the $450,000 it needed to close a funding gap so it could keep paying its five full-time and 2 part-time teachers.

But a GoFundMe drive was not nearly enough, raising just over $10,000, prompting the school board to vote unanimously at a meeting on Friday to suspend all academic activities at the school.

The school had been in talks of selling up to another private school, the Twin Cities German Immersion School, which would have kept the facility open, but the sale fell through.

Another party then expressed interest, but failed to submit any signed purchase agreements by a Friday deadline.

"This sudden turn of events, when everything was looking so optimistic, leaves us all sad, shaken, angry, and maybe even questioning God’s will," principal Elizabeth Wegner wrote on Facebook.

"This is normal. It will take time for this to soak in and it will take more time as we go on to see the good our Heavenly Father has planned for each of us."

The school's roots date back to 1861, when Trinity Lutheran School opened its doors in St. Paul, before a branch school opened a few miles to the west in 1890.

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This branch school would eventually become incorporated as Central Lutheran School in 1942, before it moved to its current, Lexington Parkway site in 1951.

It had been operated by Bethal Lutheran, Jehovah Lutheran, and St. Stephanus Lutheran Churches, but has struggled to meet its costs because more and more of its students now receive financial aid.

The Pioneer Press reports the parents of only five students pay the full, $10,000 tuition fee, with the rest qualifying for grants and scholarships that reduces the income from tuition to around $3,500 per student.

On its GoFundMe page, CLS says its dwindling enrollment mirrors similar struggles suffered by faith-based schools around the country.

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