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GARY — A new Lutheran school is opening in Gary this fall for youngsters in kindergarten, first and second grade.

Principal Sue Zientara said the name of the school is Ascension Lutheran School. It is at 1150 W. 49th Ave., at the intersection of 49th and Pierce Street.

Zientara said the history of this Lutheran school dates back to the mid-1950s and served all faiths until the mid-1970s.

"The school opened in 1956 for students in kindergarten through eighth grade," she said. "It was open for about 20 years. I believe it was closed for a while. We reopened it as Our Savior Lutheran Church. It was in East Glen Park on 45th Avenue and that building was sold, and this building on 49th Avenue became available, always with the thought of starting a school again. We have been here since the 1990s."

During that time, Zientara said the church received grants and offered tutoring to students, created a vegetable garden and offered it to the community.

Zientara said the Indiana District of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod decided there was a need for such a school in the Gary area.

"LUMIN (Lutheran Urban Mission Initiative Inc.) deals specifically with urban schools," Zientara said.

"Partnering with LUMIN, Ascension Lutheran School plans to bring the LUMIN expertise to Northwest Indiana."

Zientara said LUMIN has developed a network of Lutheran schools that share resources and expertise to create safe, high-quality Lutheran schools focused on educational success, leadership development and spiritual growth.

She said LUMIN will provide all services, including providing the school curriculum and hiring teachers and other staff.

Ascension Lutheran School also has been approved to become an Indiana Choice Scholarship School, meaning that students who want to attend the school using the Choice Scholarship, also known as vouchers, will be able to do so.

A voucher allows families to use public school tax dollars to attend a private school.

Zientara said her role this year is to get the school up and running. She said eventually, the school will be from kindergarten through eighth grade.

The Rev. John Albers, pastor at Our Savior Lutheran Church and president of the board for the Lutheran School Corp. of Indiana, said this is the first school but not the last.

"It is intended as an educational outreach into the community," he said.

"It's both a means of providing a high-quality education for children but also as a Christian outreach into the community. I believe there is a need for more high-quality education for children in the communities in and around Gary.

"Our church owns the building, and it is underutilized. We have an opportunity to put that building into service. Our target is to have around 40 children to start. Eventually, we want to have K-8 with about 250 students," Albers said.

"We expect to do fundraising through individuals, area congregations, grant programs, through the church body and the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. Right now, funding is from private donors, stakeholders, other area congregations and the M-Synod."

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Southlake County Reporter

Carmen is an award-winning journalist who has worked at The Times newspaper for 20 years. Before that she also had stints at The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss., The Post-Tribune and The News Dispatch in Michigan City.