St. John's Lutheran School celebrated its 150th anniversary of the school's founding during the 2016/2017 school year. What a strong educational ministry it has provided for the community during all those years! That legacy of longevity demonstrates its solid foundation. The progressive transition over many, many decades from a small wooden building in 1866 to a structure today that houses a large gymnasium, interactive white boards, wireless internet, tablets, and computers illustrates the school’s responsiveness to meeting the needs of students today.
Evangelical Lutheran St. Johannes Society of Elgin Kane County, Illinois, (later known as St John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church), was established on July 4, 1859. In 1866, a small wooden building was purchased and became the first school building with the pastor serving as the teacher in this one room structure. This building sat near the northeast corner of Spring and Division streets, where the church annex office building is now located. The current church is still situated on the same block, just a bit further north.
Children in the first school had no desks; instead they knelt on the floor, using their chairs as desks when practicing writing or arithmetic. For reasons lost to history, the school was not used for two years from 1874- 1876 and the building was sold. A new pastor resurrected the school in 1876 with 27 students, holding school in the church. By 1878, there were 77 students and St. John’s issued a call for the first teacher. In 1884, a new brick building consisting of two classrooms was built. This structure is still in use as the northwest portion of the current building (administrative office area). In 1915, the building doubled in size with the addition of two more classrooms to the south. This addition is still in use as the southwest portion of the building (kindergarten and main hall area). The number of teachers increased as the building grew in size. In 1917, St John’s joined the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.
Kindergarten was added in 1946. Due to the explosive growth in population (over 250 students), in 1956 the congregation undertook extensive renovation and expansion of the school. In the school building, a lunch room, homemaking and shop classrooms were added on the lower level, two additional classrooms, a library, health room, faculty room and administrative offices were added on the first floor, and four classrooms and washrooms were added on the second floor. The main entrance was moved from the center of the west side of the building to the current location at the northwest corner.
A parish building was constructed at the same time; it was attached to the east side of the current church building. This building consisted of a social area on the lower level, gymnasium, kitchen, general purpose room and church office on the first floor, and on the second floor were washrooms, locker rooms and three classrooms. Also constructed was the tunnel between the buildings. All of these areas are still in use, but some have changed in purpose since homemaking and shop are no longer taught. A classroom, computer room, and science room now occupy some of those spaces. Staff increases also occurred at the time of renovations.
Changes and upgrades in the building and program continue to the present time. It is fascinating to see how space use modifications are made to facilitate the most current methods of teaching that best equip today’s students to reach their full potential.