HALES CORNERS - Hales Corners Lutheran has agreed to sell its elementary school building to Lutheran Special School and Education Services, which is planning to move into the facility for the 2017-2018 school year.
The congregation voted on March 13 to sell its Grange campus property, at 5425 S. 111th St., and the decision was announced publicly at a March 15 community meeting.
Though the sale is expected to be completed soon, Hales Corners Lutheran will lease space for its own school until 2018, and will continue to lease space beyond that until its own expansion project is done. HCL will share the building with LSSES, keeping its preschool through third grade there for now.
Role of LSSES
LSSES is a Christian school for children with "unique learning challenges and/or emotional difficulties," according to their website. It teaches children who have learning difficulties such as cognitive disability, autism, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
"We serve children with learning disabilities who have not been successful in a pull-out program or individual program," said Lutheran Special School principal Judy Schultz.
The building will also house their other educational services, such as art therapy.
Currently, the school has 24 students enrolled, though school officials expect to have a student population of 36 when LSSE moves into the Hales Corners building.
For the past 30 years, LSSES has shared space with Milwaukee Lutheran High School, 9700 W. Grantosa Drive. However, as the student body at the high school has grown, that site no longer has room for LSSES.
Though the location in Hales Corners is approximately 12 miles directly south of its current home, Schultz explained that LSSES has purchased a bus to transport students from Milwaukee to the village, so that they can continue schooling the students currently enrolled.
After moving to the Grange campus, LSSES plans to increase its enrollment, with a goal of eventually providing classrooms for kindergarten through 12th grade, to a maximum 150 students.
However, that goal is far-off, as the building will be in transition throughout the next few years.
HCL's pastor, the Rev. Keith Speaks, noted that this plan for the building seemed like a much better option than they had previously considered: selling the land to Movin' Out Minisitries, which would have demolished the school to build townhomes for disabled tenants or families with disabilities.
"The idea of tearing down the building was emotional to people inside as well as outside (the church)," Speaks said.
Given what would have been problematic changes in zoning and population density, and concerns from neighbors about living near "low income housing," the plan had to be rethought.
At the community meeting, residents seemed more satisfied with this transition that would keep the building a school, though a few neighbors expressed concerns that the students accepted to the school would have "behavioral issues."
However, Schultz said, that won't be an issue, given that the school is meant to serve those who have had difficulty succeeding in other programs because of learning difficulties, not because of disciplinary issues.
"It's not to say that there aren't behavioral issues in children that might be hyperactive or have trouble organizing, but there's not behavior issues like (for a child who is) emotionally disturbed," Schultz explained.
HCL hopes to continue Sunday and Wednesday evening services at the Grange campus chapel until it can expand its campus at 12300 W. Janesville Road, and HCL officials hope to continue using the gym space for Upward basketball and keep scout troops there indefinitely.
According to Speaks, in the long run, traffic around the building will decrease. The current elementary, which he says has over 300 students, is much larger than the student body of the Lutheran Special School, even if they grow their enrollment.
Speaks anticipates the details of the sale to be settled by June. HCL then plans to move their fourth and fifth grade classes to the Janesville campus, where the middle school is housed, for the 2017-2018 school year.
Eventually, HCL hopes to house all of their school ministries at the Janesville campus, including its preschool/daycare that sits across Janesville Road by the senior housing complex. However, that will likely not happen for some time.
"We're trying to figure out what God has in mind for that building," Speaks said.