By the grace of God, the members of Bethel have embraced the great commission that our Lord has given to His church, which is to make disciples of all nations. Since our church and school are one, with the same goals and purposes, our school serves as a mission arm of our congregation. In doing so, we are able to reach our to our community with the gospel of Christ.
Historic Reasons for the existence of our school
- The Lord Himself wants little children to be trained in His name.
- The Lord revived proper thought on Christian Education through His servant, Martin Luther.
- These Christian convictions were carried through our forefathers to this continent, to Bay City.
Practical reasons for the existence of our school
- To assist parents in fulfilling their God-given responsibility to rear their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
- To provide training in basic secular subjects from the Christian point of view.
Bethel Lutheran School is one of 350 Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod Schools with 27,000 children receiving a Christian based education.
HISTORY OF BETHEL LUTHERAN SCHOOL
From the earliest days of Bethel Congregation, Christian Education for her children was important. Sometimes the teaching of German seemed more to move our forefathers than the teaching of the Word of God, but God moved them to the solid foundation they sought. Initially, the education was carried out in the church building, and the pastor was the teacher. Plans were made in 1858 to establish a Christian elementary school, and in 1869 a “School Committee” was formed to seek a teacher in German and English. There were no results for 11 years. The old church became the first school in 1867, still taught by the pastors. After the 1871 fire destroyed church and school, no special school building was erected at the new Madison/McKinley location until 1879. The brick veneer building erected that year served until 1906, and the first full-time teacher was engaged in the year 1880.
The school was taught by one teacher much of the time, with a second teacher engaged at different times for work in the primary grades. The new school/auditorium, built in 1906 at a cost of almost $9,000, had two classrooms. This brick building served to 1969, graduating its last class in June of that year. Many of Bethel’s present members received their education in this school.
The present school/gymnasium was built with the church, dedicated in July of 1969, with two classrooms, a library, gymnasium, and showers. The large classroom was divided in 1973 to be shared by kindergarten and primary grades. This marks the first time a third teacher, part-time, was engaged. In May 1975, a third classroom addition was dedicated and a third full-time teacher was called for that fall. In 1979 a fourth classroom was added and a fourth full-time teacher was called.
1980 marked the 100th anniversary of Bethel School, and school enrollment reached an all-time high of 116 students in 1983. By 1991, however, enrollment had declined to 68 students. In the face of projections anticipating only further declines, the congregation made the difficult decision to reduce the teaching staff by one teacher.
In 1994, with enrollment down to 44 students, the Lord opened the first of two new doors for Bethel School: A Preschool was begun in August – a significant new program with great potential.
The second new door opened in 1995, when Mt. Olive congregation discontinued its 5th through 8th grades and recommended that these students attend Bethel School as tuition students. In 1996, Bethel and Mt. Olive adopted a “cooperative student/teacher arrangement” in which Mt. Olive would close its school completely, send all its students to Bethel School without tuition, and call a middle grades teacher who would teach at Bethel School. This arrangement has worked well, but since the 2002-2003 school year Mt. Olive’s student enrollment has diminished significantly and Mt. Olive no longer provides a teacher to the school. Day school enrollment has averaged in the mid-60s in recent years.
Our preschool has proven to be a particular blessing. It is Bethel’s largest community outreach program. Through 2005, an average of between one and two new families annually have joined our church and enrolled their children in our school after having contact with our preschool and its staff.
In celebration of the 150th anniversary of Bethel Church, an expansion and remodeling of the school building was approved by the congregation. The ground breaking was May 23, 2004 and construction officially began June 7, 2004. The beginning of the 2004-2005 school year was delayed by one week due to the construction. However, when school opened for the year, we had a new Multipurpose/Meeting room a new Kindgegarten room, a newly remodeled preschool room, a new school office and many other needed updates to the school building.
The Lord has richly blessed our congregation and our school for many years! We pray that he will continue to bless our mission of Christian Education.