LANSING | Sixteen students of Luther East High School received their diplomas Saturday during ceremonies that are the final commencement for the Lutheran Church-affiliated high school.
Or were they the final ceremonies?
Luther East Principal Dale Cooper held out hope Saturday that Luther East may someday be resurrected as a high school.
Prior to the hour-long afternoon commencement service, Cooper told The Times the board of directors for south suburban Lutheran churches that oversees the high school will meet Wednesday at the high school building, 2750 Glenwood-Lansing Road.
The subject of that meeting, which will not be open to the public, will be the eventual reopening of the high school.
Thursday was the last day of class for the current academic year, and the high school’s faculty and staff will cease to be paid after June as they work toward the transition of remaining Luther East students to other high schools to complete their education.
Classes will not resume in September. But Cooper, who has run Luther East for 12 years and been an educator for nearly 40 years, said officials want to figure out if a new Luther East High School is feasible sometime in the future.
Enrollment at Luther East had declined to 45 students for the now-complete school year, and Cooper said officials would need to see a reliable base of between 75 and 85 students for a new Luther East to be feasible.
Any future Luther East high school would start with just a ninth grade class, then add classes in future years, Cooper said.
Church officials who last month approved the closing of Luther East have said the closing of several parochial elementary schools in the area that traditionally fed students into Luther East made it unlikely that enough students could be found any time soon.
Saturday’s commencement ceremony included a special moment when each of the school’s 12 faculty and staff members — from mathematics teacher Alan Erke, who taught at Luther East for 27 years, to newly hired Spanish teacher Alison Martinez — was acknowledged individually.
Commencement speaker the Rev. Maynard Toensing Jr., pastor of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Beecher, told the graduates their lives would consist of tests of their religious faiths.
“When you are met with a trial, if you live in Christ, count it as a moment of joy,” he said.
Joseph E. Ferguson III, the class valedictorian, said he was pleased to be able to attend Luther East, saying, “We may not have been the most athletic, or the largest or most academic school, but we have heart.”