HADAR — The two years Laura Ziche has spent as principal of Immanuel Lutheran School in Hadar are among the best she’s spent in the field of education.
With 30 students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade and three teachers on staff, Ziche said the small student-teacher ratio creates an ideal learning environment.
“With the low class size we have, I can really ensure each kid has it before we move onto the next thing,” said Ziche, who teaches grades four through eight.
The past two years, however, also have brought a slight uptick in enrollment numbers, forcing the congregation at Immanuel Lutheran Church to make some serious decisions about the future of the nearly 60-year-old school building.
Immanuel Lutheran Church in Hadar — part of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod — was established in 1883 and a school followed in years after. The current school building was built in 1963, and no major improvements have been made to the building since then.
Ziche said the building’s large kitchen hasn’t been not functional, and part of its preschool has doubled as a fellowship area, which has created challenges multiple times throughout the year. In addition, children from the preschool area have had to walk across the building to reach the restroom.
“We were at the point where if we wanted to educate the children and to grow the school, it was time to improve the facility,” said the Rev. Austin Ziche, pastor at Immanuel Lutheran and husband to the principal.
For the past decade, the congregation had kicked around the idea of making improvements to the school building, but with the uptick in enrollment and the need for upgrades growing each year, congregation members opted to move forward with improvements as soon as the school year ended.
“We’ve had money sitting in the bank for a very long time. We had $55,000 in the bank earmarked specifically for school improvement,” he said.
With the congregation behind the efforts to renovate the school, the Rev. Ziche said the church raised about $27,000 additional dollars in two weeks. The entire project is expected to cost $110,000.
“It was very clear the congregation was behind it and would support it,” he said.
The renovation is an effort not only to update but to reclaim space for efficiency. Laura Ziche said she’s especially excited about how the improvements will affect the Jesus’ Kids Preschool area.
“The functionality is going to be so much better and easier,” she said. “Our preschool is an important part of our ministry, and we’ve got to put our money into that preschool.”
Kurt Aaberg of Stanton, who owns A&A Design Co., and whose wife, Nancy, teaches at the school, is handling the renovation process. Updates are expected to be done by Aug. 15.
For Todd Oestreich, a Hadar resident who has had generations of his family complete their early education at Immanuel Lutheran, the project is a way to carry on the tradition of successful students the school has educated.
“We’ve got successful students out there who are turning into successful members of the community,” he said. “When I was in high school in the ’80s, they remodeled the church building. That was their generation’s way of keeping the congregation going. I feel like this is our response to that.”