Parents requests start process

Photo by Barbie Porter
Jolene Wagner is the wife of Pastor Dan Wagner of Deer Creek. She joined the St. Paul’s Lutheran School as an educator six years ago, and is the school principal.

By Barbie Porter


St. Paul’s Lutheran School in Perham is adding seventh and eighth grade classes to its parochial school next fall.

The school currently offers preschool and grades K-6. After several requests from parents to provide a junior high curriculum, school board member Jamie Holzer and several others formed a sub-committee and asked the question, is it possible?  The first step was to survey the parents of current students to determine if there was enough interest. 

The results were “overwhelmingly supportive,” Holzer said, adding of the 50-plus parents that responded, 78 percent said they were interested in their child attending classes at the school beyond sixth grade.  Parental feedback emphasized the desire to instill Christian morals in kids who are reaching their impressionable teenage years.

The sub-committee then visited other private schools where they soaked in advice before creating their own plan of action. 

“We took on the endeavor, did our research and defined what it would look like,” Holzer said. “We started right before school got out last year.”

Photo by Barbie Porter
Students at St. Paul’s Lutheran School get the same education as public school students, just with the addition of a Christ-based teachings.

After about 10 months of work, the sub-committee brought the idea to the church board, and it was approved. 

The news hit home for Holzer as she has two children attending the school. One is a third grader; the other in sixth grade. She said her sixth grader is excited to be among the first seventh graders at the school next fall.

Principal (and third grade teacher) Jolene Wagner explained students get the same curriculum those in public schools receive, but with a Christ-centered environment and Biblical studies.

“We have robotics, field trips to Duluth for fifth graders and the Twin Cities for sixth graders, athletics and all the opportunities public schools offer,” she said, noting they also have athletics that teach fundamentals and host competitions. 

Wagner added the Perham School District allows their students to join in the more competitive sports programs, as well.

Another benefit to students attending the private school may be seen in classroom sizes. Wagner said class sizes vary, but range between 10-to-17 students. All students also have access to the latest technology, including SmartBoards in every classroom and iPads or Chromebooks for student use. Grades K-2 have the devices in the classroom, the students in grades 3-6 are assigned their own Chromebook.

“We are not lagging behind on technology… and, we take security seriously.”

Jolene Wagner, Principal and third grade teacher at St. Paul’s Lutheran School

She explained visitors enter a vestibule where they contact the office and are greeted at the door by a staff member. Even the doors to the adjoining church remain locked during the school day.

There are also busing options, as the school shares the same routes that are offered to public school students in Perham. If a prospective student is not on a bus route, there may be other options. Wagner explained several families started a car pool when they mandated shutdowns occurred during the early days of COVID-19. 

“Some of them enjoyed it and kept it going,” she said, noting those not on a bus route may have other options for getting their child to school.

Just like public schools, there are times students act in a manner that requires discipline. When those times arise, she explained they are able to pray with the student, and use the opportunity to teach what it means to live and act as a Christian. 

For families who feel a Christ-based education is important, Wagner encouraged a visit St. Paul’s Lutheran School in Perham.

“We have kids from Perham, Frazee, New York Mills, Ottertail and more,” she said. “Call us at (218) 346-2300 or send an email to We would love to visit with you and have you visit the school for a tour.”

Wagner added all denominations are welcome as well as those with no faith background. They are hoping to have all seventh and eighth graders registered by March 29.

Private schools do not receive the same funding as public schools, and there is a tuition cost. However, Wagner noted there are scholarships available, which she would be happy to discuss.