Herald JournalHerald Journal, May 31, 2004

Lighthouse school closing doors

By Heidi Stutelberg

After 13 years, the homeschool co-op, Lighthouse Educational Ministries in Winsted, closed its doors due to lack of students and increasing financial considerations.

The school originated in Sue Debner’s basement in 1990 with nine students.

Debner had previously taught at St. John’s Lutheran School in Winsted, along with Julaine Schimmel and David Behrens. That school closed in the spring of 1990.

Debner and Schimmel then started LEM in the basement of Dr. Jim Neff’s dental practice in 1991. After Debner had to be on bedrest while pregnant with her daughter, Behrens joined the team later that fall.

With an enrollment of 25 to 40 students, k-12, Lighthouse Educational Ministeries (LEM) had its largest graduating class of six students this year. Three of the six graduates are attending the Associate of Free Lutheran Bible School next fall in Plymouth.

Over the years, the school’s enrollment grew, and many musicals and concerts were performed at Good Shepherd Free Lutheran Church in Cokato.

Each spring, students also competed at the School of Tomorrow’s annual convention, usually conducted in Buffalo. Students from Minnesota and surrounding states gathered to participate in a variety of events from track and field, arts and crafts, to musical and literary competitions.

There were several years where LEM students were able to go on to national School of Tomorrow competitions held in Arizona, Missouri and Virginia.

Many parents committed hundreds, if not thousands, of hours to help monitor, assist with physical education classes, chaperone field trips, and produce musicals.

Lighthouse Education Ministries parents and students ended their final week of school by going on a nature walk at the Lowry Nature Center in Carver Park, participating a run/walk/bicycle marathon fundraiser, and enjoying a picnic at Mills Reserve Park in Winsted.

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