Fort Wayne’s Concordia Lutheran High School studying growth options for the future, including possibly relocating
Concordia Lutheran High School and Lutheran congregations in Fort Wayne face a challenging decision: How to prepare the school and its students for the education and career needs of the future.
The exploration process will include studying whether to relocate the school to a site just north of the Parkview North Regional Medical Center campus.
“We need to make a rational decision, not an emotional one,” said Mark Webb, the high school’s school board president.
That’s why school officials plan to take a year or more to study the options and to gather community input, said Webb and Mychal Thom, Concordia’s head of school.
These are the three options being considered, Webb and Thom said:
• Stay at the current location at Anthony Boulevard and St. Joe River Drive and renovate the school and athletic facilities. Concordia has a combined total of about 42 acres at its current campus – about 19 acres west of Anthony Boulevard where the school stands now and about 22 acres containing its athletic facilities east of Anthony and north of St. Joe River Drive.
• Flip the campus by building a new school on the land now occupied mostly by athletic facilities east of Anthony Boulevard. Zollner Stadium likely would stay where it is, but other athletic facilities then would be rebuilt on the site of the current school building.
• Relocate, possibly to approximately 85 acres of land at the southeast corner of Diebold and Union Chapel roads. The owner of the land has offered to donate about 55 acres for construction of a new Concordia Lutheran High School, Thom said. The landowner would keep about 30 acres along Diebold Road for commercial development.
Pursuing any of the options could cost $40 to $60 million, Thom said.
“We are looking for something that can sustain the school another 50 years down the road,” he said.
Concordia’s enrollment, which has been growing in recent years, now stands at 745 students, Thom said. The current building has a maximum capacity of 825 students.
A school committee formed during the 2015-2016 school year examined what the school’s enrollment goal should be, and it recommended 1,050 students in 10 to 15 years, background information supplied by the school said.
The current campus is landlocked by roads and the St. Joseph River, which doesn’t leave much room for expansion, Thom said.
Portions of the current building, which has gone through some expansions in the past, also are more than 50 years old, he said.
In addition, the school wants to expand its educational offerings to reach more families, both those whose children want to attend college and those families whose children want to move into a skills-driven career that doesn’t require a college degree, Thom said.
School officials believe future enrollment growth will be determined by offering an education that families perceive as having high value, he added.
As a business owner, Webb believes Concordia needs to produce students who will grow into leaders at local companies and in the community.
A space and site committee established by the school studied Concordia’s needs, goals and options for 10 months and then recommended the school’s board of directors pursue relocating, the school’s background information said.
Board members accepted that recommendation last October and appointed a discovery committee to study relocation and the other options in more detail, the background information said. The discovery committee also will gather school and community input and develop a possible funding plan for moving forward.
For now, the discovery committee will focus mainly on the relocation option because school officials know the least about it, Thom said.
School leaders already have been talking about the options with the 17 local Lutheran congregations that own the school, he and Webb said. Now they want to reach out to the community at large.
“We are in the process of engaging as many community members as possible, talking about what would this look like and what would this feel like,” Thom said.
Moving forward with any of the options would require that Concordia’s board of directors recommend an option to the delegates from each congregation, who would consider the proposal and vote on whether to approve it, Thom and Webb said.
If Concordia relocates, it won’t be to get closer to new pockets of potential students, he and Thom said.
“The purpose is how can we give a better Christian education to our students,” Webb said. “If we do that in a God-pleasing way, we believe we may reach more people.”
Concordia Lutheran High School officials don’t want to rush to a decision, but they don’t want to drag it out unnecessarily.
The longer it takes to make a decision, the more renovation or constructions costs will go up, Webb said.
So in the coming months, school officials will work to gather community input and see if people come together around one goal, Thom said. That will create momentum and positive energy as the school moves forward with fundraising and the project, whatever option is selected.
“The process is as important as the final decision,” he said.
You can learn more about Concordia Lutheran High School’s renovation or relocation discovery process by going to http://www.clhscadets.com/discovery/.
For more about the school’s scholarship options, go to http://www.clhscadets.com/scholarships.
MOVING NOT NEW
The possibility of relocation isn’t new for Concordia Lutheran High School.
Now at 1601 St. Joe River Drive, the school originally was founded in 1935 on the former campus of Concordia College at Maumee Avenue and Anthony Boulevard, said Ashley Wiehe, the high school’s communications manager.
That campus now is home to Indiana Tech, 1600 E. Washington Blvd.
Enrollment growth led local Lutheran congregations, through the Lutheran Association for Secondary Education, to build a free-standing high school on the campus, and that building was dedicated on Sept. 7, 1952, according to documents researched by Matt Bair, director of marketing and communications at Indiana Tech.
The high school moved in 1964 into its current building on St. Joe River Drive, Wiehe said. The building since has gone through many expansions.
“They had the foresight to say it was time to do this (move),” said Mark Webb, president of Concordia high school’s board of directors. The move allowed the school to continue growing.
Indiana Tech bought the former high school building at Maumee and Anthony, Bair’s research shows. The building now serves as Indiana Tech’s Cunningham Business Center.