Developer Randy Alexander has been a member of Bethel Lutheran Church [Map] downtown for eight years. He grew up with a strong faith-based culture and says having a moral compass is critical for raising children.
“And where better to do that than in a Christian school?” he asked.
That’s a big part of why Alexander is part of a church committee to study the market feasibility of a kindergarten through fifth-grade school at the downtown church, 312 Wisconsin Ave. [Map] It’s familiar territory for Alexander, whose Alexander Co. specializes in urban infill projects. It recently developed the Capitol West condominiums downtown and is building the Novation Campus business park in Fitchburg.
If Bethel decides to go ahead and start a school, it would become one of about 30 private elementary schools in the Madison area, most of them religiously affiliated.
Matthew Kussow, executive director of the Wisconsin Council of Religious and Independent Schools, said the dismal economy is an obstacle for anyone looking to start a school now. Overall, state private school enrollment for the 2008-09 school year saw a slight decline, he said.
“We are sort of bracing ourselves for a steeper decline for 2009-2010 as the full effects of this economy are being felt,” Kussow said, adding that he won’t know specifically until the spring how many kids are re-enrolling in non-public schools. There are about 900 of them in the state, and they historically enroll about 10 percent of the total student body.
But Kussow also said that in general, private religious schools have a built-in following. So if Bethel identifies a need and believes it can get enough kids to start the school, in the long run, a church school is usually very successful, he said.
More choices are a good thing.