Lutheran High School South broke ground on an $18 million Center for the Arts on May 3. The anticipated completion date is fall 2024.
Head of School Jonathan Butterfield said the completion date is not set in stone, as many factors could play into the completion date.
“Of course, there are many factors that contribute to the move-in date,” Butterfield said. “But it is our desire to have it by the start of the school year.”
Those in attendance at the groundbreaking event were Butterfield; Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod Director of School Ministry Alan Freeman; Lutheran South Board of Trustees Chairman Jonathan Schultz; U.S. Congresswoman Ann Wagner, R-Ballwin; Lutheran South graduate and current cabinet chair Dean Eggerding; graduate and Executive Director of the Darren Jubel Charitable Foundation Melissa Markwort; and current junior and International Thespian Society President James Davis.
Butterfield said the cost of the project has been covered by donations made to the school.
“This project is almost completely funded by our generous donors,” he said. “Giving students a wonderful overall high school experience is a high priority for our school. This expansion will serve all of our students with a space to worship, collaborate and enjoy on a daily basis. In addition, our theater, band, music and artists will especially thrive in the state-of-the-art performance areas.”
Lutheran South Enrollment and Marketing Director Kippin Schelp said it was important for Davis to speak on the students’ behalf.
“We wanted a student represented since the expansion is for them,” Schelp said. “James was a natural fit as a theater student and president of the Thespian Society.”
Wagner told The Call she was impressed with Davis’s speech.
“I was impressed with theater student James Davis who spoke about the importance of the new facility to students,” Wagner said in an email. “This much-needed space will be an asset to LHSS and the South County community for decades to come.”
The expansion is approximately 39,000 square feet and will have areas for several classes and programs.
The biggest piece of the expansion is a 622-seat performing arts theater with a functional stage. The area will also serve as the chapel for school-wide worship.
The addition will allow the band and choir to have more practice rooms and both will use the theater for shows. Butterfield mentioned that while development began in 2018 for the new addition, conversations for the new building occurred well before then.
“The project has been in various planning stages over the years,” he said. “The conversations date back to 2002, and at different times when we were close to sharing the vision in earnest the economy did not cooperate, not to mention the ramifications of the recent global pandemic.”
Rising enrollment has played a role in the expansion as well.
“We expect to reach a decade-high enrollment of 540 students for the 2023-24 school year,” Schelp said.
Butterfield also pointed out that the rising enrollment was a huge help in getting the expansion moving.
“Next to the gifts by our financial supporters, enrollment is the most critical component of making the Center for the Arts a reality,” he said. “An increasing enrollment does not necessarily measure a school’s success; however, it does indicate that good things are happening. Enrollment rises when excellent teachers, staff members and cocurricular leaders give students a wonderful overall high school experience.”
Butterfield said that word of mouth among students has helped enrollment grow, as well as strengthening the support of donors in the community.
“What happens is that students invite their friends to consider attending their school and more students enroll,” he said. “Increased enrollment builds confidence within the community, including encouragement for donors to support the mission and vision of the school.”
Butterfield said the new building will serve the Lutheran South campus and community for years to come.
“The new Darren Jubel Charitable Foundation Center for the Arts will serve our school community for decades to come as a space for practice and performance, creativity and collaboration, and for work and worship as we joyfully celebrate our identity as children of the one true king, loved and saved by Jesus,” Butterfield said.