There is a great deal separating Salt Lake Lutheran High School, situated in a quiet Central City neighborhood, from the sometimes rancorous world of Utah public education.
While the debate rages over issues such as teaching morals within Utah's public school system, there is no dissent at Lutheran High over the merits of a "Christian education."While public school students struggle for the attention of their teachers among as many as 30 other students, Lutheran High students enjoy a student-teacher ration of 10 to 1.
And while public school students may sometimes feel they've been reduced to a file folder in an administrator's office, a Lutheran High student, as Executive Director Robert Lehmann is fond of saying, is "more than just a face without a name."
Lutheran High, Salt Lake City's first Lutheran high school and one of only four private high schools in the valley, was founded in 1984, opening its doors for a dozen students.
Now the school, with 75 students, is bulging at the seams of its current facility, in the education annex of St. John's Lutheran Church at 475 E. Herbert Ave. - so much so that school officials are looking for a new facility.
Attracting students from as far away as Layton, the institution has undergone remarkable growth, attributable to a keen interest among Utahns in alternative opportunities for education, Lehmann said.
"I think there is a commitment among a lot of Christian people to ensure that Christian education occurs at the secondary level," Lehmann explained.
That interest is not restricted solely to Lutherans, who comprise 55 percent of the school's enrollment. Eleven percent of the students are members of the LDS Church and 6 percent are Episcopalian. Many come from other denominations, Lehmann reported.
The school - accredited by the Northwestern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools - offers a full array of high school courses, including French, Spanish and computer skills and requires weekly chapel attendance.
Christian education is a major tenant of the school's learning philosophy. "You cannot separate a child's social, physical and mental growth from his spiritual growth," Lehmann said.
Spiritual growth is, more often than not, separated from other aspects of learning in the public educational system - something that Lehmann calls unfortunate, particularly given the value-based problems society currently faces, such as drug use.
But Lutheran High can divorce itself from other problems Utah public schools face. While some Utah public school children go without textbooks, Lutheran High kids never do and they have the full attention of a devoted teaching staff, Lehmann said.
"Our teachers here are more than just teachers, they are caring people who are concerned about the moral and spiritual development of our kids," he added.
Consequently, children develop a keen desire to come to Lutheran High School. Some 80 percent of those attending the school were given the option to do so by their parents, Lehmann said.
Additionally, many parents are turning to Lutheran High. "We have a lot of parents who have brought their kids here out of the public schools," Lehmann said, explaining that parents recognize the exceptional learning atmosphere at the school.
With so many parents and children choosing Lutheran High, the school is running out of space, Lehmann said.
Next year, the school must find a new, temporary home. The institution's seven-year plan calls for the school to be at home in a permanent facility capable of adjusting to the school's rapid growth.
As part of that growth, Lehmann was installed as the new executive director of Salt Lake Lutheran High School Association earlier this month. A native of Pierce, Neb., he attended Concordia College in Seward, Neb., where he received his bachelor of science in education degree in 1959. He earned his master of arts degree from the University of Michigan and has done doctoral studies at North Texas State and Kansas State Universities. His educational experience - elementary, secondary and college teaching and administration - spans 30 years.