St. Paul: Upgrade

Mann: Small school has a lot to offer, including Chromebooks

-Messenger photo by Joe Sutter On a recent February afternoon, Roxanne Schuur celebrates the 100th day of school this year by cooking up pancakes for her kindergarten class at St. Paul Lutheran school, while principal Julie Mann looks on.

Chromebooks have come to St. Paul Lutheran School.

This year, the Christian school started offering the laptops as another way for students to learn and study.

“We use them as an enhancement tool at this point. We have enough to have the entire class on them at one time,” Principal Julie Mann said. “Everybody has access to them, but the fifth through eighth grade probably use them most often.”

The computers can be used for everything from math practice to reading, social studies and current events.

Fifth-grader Emma Maschino said she likes how the technology gives her new options in presenting to the class.

-Messenger photo by Joe Sutter While celebrating 100 days of the school year, kindergartners Josiah Peitsch, left, and Charri Patel work on some coloring at St. Paul Lutheran school. The kids also got donuts and pretzels for snacks to make a "100" figure.

“I like when we get to make the slides for presentations, and hook it up to the whiteboard,” Maschino said.

It lets the students be more creative, fifth- and sixth-grade teacher Lisa Goedken said.

One advantage the school has always had is small student-to-teacher ratios, Mann said.

“In our two largest classes, we are 17 to 1,” she said.

The school serves preschool through eighth grade. Once students reach their last year here, Mann said, both the St. Edmond Catholic Schools and the Fort Dodge Community School District give presentations trying to win students over.

-Messenger photo by Joe Sutter Ayden Hernandez, third grade, works on a group reading activity in Melissa Pedersen's 3rd/4th grade class at St. Paul Lutheran school.

“Luckily our reputation is that we have very good kids coming out of our program,” she said. “Everybody is vying for our graduates.”

Mann’s hope for the school in the coming year is that its numbers would grow. St. Paul has about 150 students this year.

“I would like to see us physically grow,” she said. “I want our community members to know we can be an option for them. If they’re looking for strong academics and a Christian base we would love to talk to them.

“We want to remind the community we are open to everybody. You don’t have to be a Lutheran to come to a Lutheran school,” she added. “People might be surprised at how much we offer for the size of school we are.”

People sometimes see finances as a roadblock, Mann said, but St. Paul has numerous programs to help with that.

And since it doesn’t get a lot of public funding, St. Paul is looking forward to its annual fundraiser, an auction, dinner and fun night at the Best Western Starlite Village Inn & Suites.

“Our big fundraiser is coming up April 1,” Mann said. “We raised about $35,000 over the last couple years, to get things like windows and air conditioning, and updated curriculum, and the Chromebooks — those types of things that we can’t really do with our budget.”

Like any school, the budget can be a challenge.

“Finances are probably one of the biggest challenges I think all schools are facing these days,” Mann said. “Trying to find ways to be good stewards of funds and materials and staffing, to be able to serve our families as best as possible is one of our challenges and rewards.”

This is the 154th year that St. Paul has been part of the Fort Dodge community, and the third year Mann has been here. She is also athletic director and teaches a few classes herself.

“One thing I enjoy as an administrator is watching these students grow from year to year, and develop relationships with their families,” she said. “When you come to St. Paul, you become part of the Saints family.”