The numbers of LCMS schools which have closed their doors in the last 20 years is alarming -- if anyone cares to take notice. Generally, I suspect that the issue is economics: congregations cannot afford to maintain the school budget. But can we afford to be without Lutheran schools?
I think it's time for an old paradigm to become redivivus among LCMS schools: the one-room school house.
Granted, people might have to begin thinking a little bit differently about education -- and that's something rather difficult for many LCMS folk to do. (I won't put a smiling face emoji here, but I could . . .)
In the first place, families in the LCMS need to be awakened to the idea of classical Lutheran education in contrast to what education has become in our society today. I think it's possible. And secondly, I think the success of LCMS home school families has trailblazed the way so that more people might be open to the idea. (By this, I don't necessarily mean homeschoolers, but rather others might consider one-room schools in light of the success which classical Lutheran home school families have had.)
It's not just a novel idea for LCMS elementary education. Other schools are doing it, too. See this article: The Case for One-Room School Houses. I believe some teacher colleges in our western states currently train teachers for this sort of experience. Even here in Chicago, we have a few members in our congregation who attended one-room school houses in rural areas when they were children, and they grew up to have very sucessful lives in the big city.
This year, our school has been "right-sizing." Everything has been going as well as one might expect at our school without any major contentious controversies, but due to budget issues and a demographically-typical decline in enrollment, we are moving toward three grades per classroom where we have had two.
One of the major concerns of parents (a few of which withdrew their children to enroll them in public school) was whether it was humanly possible to teach three levels of math and other subjects in the same length of school day when only two were taught. If they thought back for a moment, however, they would have realized that some people may have thought the same thing when the decision was made to go from one grade per classroom to two. Notwithstanding, our school has shown that academic accomplishment has by no means diminished. I believe the same could be said of a one-room school -- especially given the technological advances available today.
Perhaps a more detailed description of how this can be done is the subject for another blog -- this one is too long already. But if you have other anecdotes or resources about one-room school house experiences, please share them in the comments!