Northwest Quarterly’s Guide to Regional Schools

The Rockford area boasts several high-quality schools that successfully combine college-preparatory academics and the liberal arts, with a focus on individual abilities and strengths, and commitment to development of the whole person. To help with your decisions, we’ve found a few of the best.

Our children are both typical and unique. While they possess many qualities in common with all children, each is an individual. Each has his or her own tastes, thoughts and spirit. Each has particular needs and goals – capabilities and strengths that must be nurtured, foibles and weaknesses that must be overcome.

We know that understanding and responding to this complex medley of characteristics is a challenge, even in daily parenting. So how do we, as parents, determine which school offers an environment that best suits our child’s specific combination of qualities? What instructional methods will most benefit our child’s learning style? What makes a certain school better for one child than another?

Among the most obvious factors is curriculum – mathematics, science, reading and writing programs. Next, of course, is faculty and staff, as well as available resources – research facilities, laboratories and up-to-the-minute technology.

Just as important as what children learn is how they learn. Does the school’s philosophy allow for different learning styles and incentives? Will each child be allowed to develop particular interests and work at an appropriate level for his or her ability?

Next to consider is the social aspect. School is a place to learn not only facts and dates, but how to get along in the world. What sorts of extracurricular activities are offered? What opportunities will your child have to develop independence, self-confidence and collaboration?

Families have a wealth of options for their children’s education, in both the public and private sectors. All of these schools are committed to providing academic excellence, as well as a strong liberal arts education, to produce knowledgeable, well-rounded students who are ready to step into the workplace of the 21st century and exact positive change in their communities.

Subjects such as philosophy, foreign language and current events encourage problem-solving and tolerance. Art, theater, music and dance stimulate self-expression and creativity. Exposure to classical literature, drama and music create an appreciation of the past. Opportunities for spiritual reflection and service to the community develop citizenship and character.

Education can help to build a strong foundation for your student’s emotional, social and mental development. It’s also a guaranteed pathway toward a happy and prosperous life.

Students who are equipped with the requisite academic, interpersonal and technical skills to succeed beyond school are more likely to land the well-paying jobs of the future. New initiatives at our region’s schools are embracing this reality of the 21st century workforce by successfully preparing students for life beyond – whether that means college, a technical degree/certificate program or straight into the workforce.

Our children can live a prosperous life in the Rockford area, and it’s their quality education that will propel them to success.

Here, Northwest Quarterly profiles area schools to assist parents in making this all-important decision about their child’s education.

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Rock Valley College’s Running Start Program

3301 N. Mulford Road, Rockford, rockvalleycollege.edu

Area high schoolers are able to get a “running start” on their education.

Rock Valley College (RVC) offers students enrolled in District 511 a chance to earn their high school diploma and associates degree concurrently through Running Start, a program that allows students to graduate high school with a college degree in hand.

Through a formal agreement with RVC and area high schools, students in the program are enrolled full-time at the college where they’ll receive high school and college credit for the courses they complete.

High schools in communities across the area are eligible for the program, including Rockford, Belvidere, South Beloit and Winnebago. The earned credits in the program can seamlessly transfer to a four-year institution, the same way it would for regular RVC students.

Tuition is paid through the high schools, but families are on the hook for textbooks, supplies and getting to RVC, since classes are held on the college campus.

The program shortens the amount of time needed to complete a college degree. College costs are also reduced, since students don’t pay tuition while they’re in the program.

Running Start is modeled after a similar program created by the Washington Legislature in 1990. It’s been in existence since 2009 and the first class graduated in 2011.

Running Start students won’t be completely shut out of high school. They’ll still be able to participate in various high school activities, including sports.

To quality for the program, students must be in strong academic standing, which includes a 3.0 high school GPA. They also have to be at least a sophomore to apply.

Students also must complete specific high school classes to enroll, including a year of algebra, a year of geometry, integrated math I and II, and two years of English. Students enrolled in these courses also must earn a “B” or higher.

In addition, students have to complete an enrollment application and complete a placement test. College courses much be at the 100 level or above. Students earn between 32 and 42 credit hours each year.

Running Start is designed to challenge students by allowing them to work in a college environment at an early age. They’ll quickly find out that college is unlike high school. Since classes are not taught five days a week, it’s extremely important to attend all classes. The class pace also is much faster. For example, a math class in high school is taught over a year, but at RVC, the class is condensed into just 16 weeks. Teachers have office hours available for students who fall behind or need additional help.

Students can either enroll in the program for both their junior and senior year, or they can enroll only for their senior year.

Even if they enroll for one year, they’ll still have a jump start on college.

At a Glance

• Students currently participating: More than 250
• Participating school districts: Belvidere, Durand, Harlem, North Boone, Pecatonica, Rockford, South Beloit and Winnebago
• Persistence Rate (students who enroll in Running Start in the fall semester and return for spring semester): 93.8%
• Retention Rate (students who come back for year two of the program): 87.2%

Phone: (815) 921-4080
Email: rvc-ec@rockvalleycollege.edu
Web: rockvalleycollege.edu/runningstart

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Rockford Christian Schools

Hemlock Campus: (Pre-K3-grade 5) 220 Hemlock Lane; Bell School Campus, grades 6-12: 1401 Bell School Road, Rockford, (815) 391-8000, rockfordchristian.org

Rockford Christian Schools is a private, non-denominational Christian school dedicated to high standards and academic excellence and spiritual growth for students in Pre-K through 12th grade.

Rockford Christian has expanded its facilities and programming for the 2019-20 school year. The campus now includes a sports fitness and training center to support the health, fitness and social needs of students and a 16,000-square-foot center for the arts to further the school’s nationally recognized fine arts program. A residence hall for student on-campus housing opened its doors this fall.

RCS is accredited by the Association of Christian Schools International, AdvancED, and the Commission on International and Trans-Regional Accreditation, and is recognized by the Illinois State Board of Education.

Rockford Christian students routinely score well above grade level. The average Rockford Christian Honors ACT score is 28.4 – well above both state and national averages. Of its graduates, approximately 100 percent pursue higher education.

Rockford Christian curriculum includes a college preparatory program, gifted enrichment and honors programs, 20 Advanced Placement learning courses, elementary math enrichment and science labs, a fine arts department – including band, choir, theater, honors band, jazz band, marching band, chamber singers, acappella, and an award-winning visual arts program – as well as the following clubs: science olympiad, robotics, rocketry, math team, IHSA scholastic bowl, national honors society, student government, key club and yearbook staff.

Rockford Christian places a major emphasis on its college counseling program. “We track our students’ academic progress, extra-curricular activities, community service and personality profile as part of a comprehensive college counseling program that gives RCS students a strong advantage towards acceptance at the college or university of their choice, as well as maximum scholarship offers,” says Peter Held, principal. “As a result of this focus on college preparedness, the 104 members of the class of 2019 received more than $9.2 million in scholarship offers.”

Rockford Christian teaches that biblical truths guide behavior and decision-makers. Integrated faith and learning take place in daily Bible classes, weekly chapel, and in practicing real-world applications of their spiritual lessons through community service projects, yearly mission trips and other service programs. Through Biblical integration in its Christ-centered academics and activities, Rockford Christian prepares students for responsibility to themselves, others and their community.

At a Glance

•Drew Popejoy, Principal of Student Services
•Peter Held, High School Principal of Curricula and Instruction
•AmyCarol Bedows, Middle School Principal
•Matt Nyberg, Preschool and Elementary School Principal

• Established: 1961
• Grades: Pre-K3 through 12
• Church Affiliation: Non-denominational
• Tuition Assistance: Financial aid and scholarships available
• Dress Code: Uniforms
• School Mascot: Royal Lions
• Sports: HS: cross-country, football, golf, swimming, soccer, volleyball, basketball, bowling, cheerleading, baseball, softball, tennis, bass fishing, track and field. MS: cross-country, football, golf, swimming, soccer, volleyball, basketball, bowling, cheerleading, track and field. Elementary: football, soccer, volleyball, basketball, cheerleading.

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Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Academy

3445 Elmwood Road, Rockford, (815) 399-3021, olsha.org

Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Academy is an independent, Pre-K through 12th grade preparatory school that passes on Catholic and Western heritage through the classical liberal arts.

The academy challenges its students to pursue excellence in academics and perfection in holiness. The school’s objectives are to impart a Catholic philosophy, to serve students in the primary and secondary levels of education and to form model American citizens. Students learn to direct all their actions toward the honor and glory of God.

“Our mission is to direct our students to know, love and serve God in this life, and to give honor and glory to Him, achieving their full spiritual, moral and intellectual potential,” says Lori Veitch, assistant principal. “We strive to cultivate a love for Jesus Christ and his church while inspiring a desire to follow his commands in service to others.”

In 2006, the Acton Institute named Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Academy one of the top 50 Catholic high schools in the nation. In 2009, the academy earned the Salvatori Award for Teaching Excellence from Hillsdale College. The academy is recognized by the Illinois State Board of Education, IHSA and is accredited by the National Association of Private Catholic and Independent Schools, by AdvancED, and by the NCAA.

High school courses at the academy concentrate on theology, history, literature, science, math and Latin, in addition to physical education and choir requirements. Courses are offered at the regular, honors and advanced level, and include seven authorized Advanced Placement (AP) courses. The courses are designed to form students into future leaders and saints, prepare them for academic success in college, and most importantly, lead them to a knowledge and love of God. Students read the same works that formed the saints and instructed our founding fathers.

“We prepare the mind, body and soul of each student for their future,” Veitch says. “Students are immersed in strong religious formation, classical education and patriotism, and are prepared to defend their freedoms. Our core values are life, liberty and the pursuit of holiness.”

Tuition at the academy ranges from $3,700 to $4,900, with discounts offered for siblings. Financial aid is available based on economic need.

Students of all grade levels at the academy can become involved in a variety of sports and clubs, from volleyball and soccer to chess club and rosary making. In addition, the school annually organizes a Christmas pageant and a golf outing.

As its motto says, the Academy challenges students to rebuild the culture through truth, faith and service.

At a Glance

Lou Bageanis, principal
Lori Veitch, assistant principal

• Established: 2000
• Grades: PreK-12
• Enrollment: 54
• Student/Teacher Ratio: 10:1
• Church Affiliation: Catholic
• Tuition: $3,700 grades PreK-8, $4,900 (9-12) plus fees
• Tuition Assistance: Available
• Dress Code: Uniforms
• School Mascot: Guardians
•Average Postgraduate/Experience Level: college (post secondary)
•Percentage of students who attend college: 100 percent
• Athletic Conference: Northeastern Athletic Conference

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Rockford Lutheran School

3411 N. Alpine Road, Rockford, (815) 877-9551, rockfordlutheran.org

What’s in a name?

Shakespeare asked this question long ago, but I contend this question is the key to real understanding of the businesses and institutions that make up the structure of our hometown.

We are Rockford Lutheran School.

Rockford is truly our home, the place where we have been planted. Our roots go back to the first Lutheran School in town. The people of St. Paul Lutheran first operated a school in the late 1800s. They planted the seed for Lutheran High School in the mid-1960s. And since that time we have welcomed students from every corner of Rockford and beyond. We have represented the city in tournaments and competitions. Our students and faculty have participated in Transform Rockford, served on civic committees, and shared our music and drama programs at the major venues of Rockford.

Lutheran theology is the foundation of our work. Doctrine translates into action. We believe that our mission is to walk alongside parents as they raise their children. This opens us up to serving students from a wide range of experiences and backgrounds. We serve students from our Lutheran homes and school while we also serve home-school students and those who began their learning career in public schools. Our tradition teaches us to be good citizens of the country as well as subjects of the heavenly King. Our doctrine of vocation means that each of us has a role to play in caring for God’s people and for His world. We are called on to understand that each of us is sinner and saint. We all fall short and have weaknesses, but they are covered with grace by a God who knows what it is to be sad and hungry, to be a stranger in a strange land, and yet to have dominion over the whole earth.

We are a School. We are one school, singular in our focus, working with parents and with students in grades PreK – 12. Our high school graduation rate in 2018/19 was 100% and that is not unusual. More than 80% of our third graders are reading on level or above. We offer programs that teach individual students to seek and develop their talent. Our grade school students perform on stage at least once a year. We have an outstanding music department where students learn that music is not an “extra.” We have academic support for students who need assistance. We have student athletes who go on to compete as All Americans in the NCAA. Our teachers are highly qualified; many are trained in the universities of our church, and are expected to adhere to the highest levels of excellence that are a part of our core values. Three languages are taught. We are able to offer university credits to students in our classrooms with guaranteed acceptance of those credits at nearly 50 Colleges and Universities.

Many articles could be written about any of the nouns in our name. Pages could be composed about how these three areas of intentional attention work together to make a wonderfully relevant education, but our space is limited. To learn more about us please visit our website rockfordlutheran.org. To keep up with us on a daily basis, please visit, and potentially like, our Facebook page to get a feel for who we are.

Rockford Lutheran School, here to partner with you, and improve our community one family at a time.

At a Glance

Don Kortze, Academic Dean
Don E. Gillingham, Executive Director

• Established: 1964
• Grades: Pre-K through 12
• Enrollment: 786
• Student/Teacher Ratio: 15:1
• Church Affiliation: Lutheran (open to all faiths)
• Tuition: From $2,253 (Pre-K) to $8,060 (High School)
• Tuition Assistance: Program Available, and participating in the Empower Illinois Tax Credit scholarship granting organization
• Dress Code: Yes
• School Mascot: Crusader
• Sr. High School Athletics: Big Northern Conference
• Sports: Co-ed: Cheerleading. Boys & Girls: Basketball, Bowling, Cross Country, Golf, Soccer, Tennis, Track, Wrestling. Boys: Baseball, Football. Girls: Powder Puff, Softball, Swimming, Volleyball.

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Immanuel Lutheran School

1225 E. Second St., Belvidere, (815) 547-5346, immanuelknights.org

Immanuel Lutheran School (ILS) is committed to providing a Christ-centered education to children Pre-K3 through eighth grade. The faculty and staff at Immanuel are dedicated to helping children reach their physical, spiritual, social, academic, and emotional potential in a Christ-centered environment. Immanuel Lutheran School has received State of Illinois Non-Public School Recognition and is accredited through the National Lutheran School Accreditation process. The school is a ministry of Immanuel Lutheran Church in Belvidere.

Immanuel’s tuition rate is one of the lowest in the area, while students’ test scores rank in the top tier of area schools. Immanuel’s students consistently score well above the national average on standardized tests.

Classrooms are equipped with SMART boards and wireless Internet access, while the school additionally has 100 Chromebooks, a computer lab, tablets for every student in grades 1-5, a science lab, two gymnasiums (one of which is high school-sized), a new playground, a soccer field, an outdoor basketball court, a music/choir/band room, an art room, a native Prairie area, and a motor lab activities center for Pre-K-K students.

Athletic programs in volleyball, soccer, basketball, cheerleading, and track are available to students, as well as an abundance of clubs, such as prayer warriors, art club, book club, and chess club.

In addition, students can take advantage of many service opportunities, such as preparing programs for area health centers, collecting school supplies for students in Liberia, serving meals to the guests at Carpenter’s Place, and collecting supplies for area organizations such as the Rockford Rescue Mission and Walter Lawson Children’s Home.

Immanuel offers unique programs, activities and field trips to its students. The Big Friend/Little Friend program pairs older students with younger students for monthly activities to help students learn responsibility and care for each other. Field trips to Springfield, Ill., a YMCA team building camp in Potosi, Mo., trips to Madison, Wis., Hannibal, Mo., and other unique and local places help students to grow in their knowledge outside of the classroom.

Finally, students can interact with the school’s “on staff” Comfort Dogs, Kye and Bekah, who greet the students on school days, make hospital visits, and aid in disaster response situations.

Clearly, Immanuel offers a combination of strong academics with high expectations and reasonable tuition. Immanuel’s students leave our program well-prepared for high school. Faculty members are committed to student success and offer study and review sessions after school.

Quick Facts

-Tuition Rates are among the lowest in the region.
-Immanuel Lutheran School’s achievement test scores are among the highest in the region.
-Average teacher education & experience is 22 years with
73% having master’s degrees.
-Before & After School Care.
-SMART Boards & Wireless Internet.
-Chromebooks and Tablets.
-Fully-Equipped Science Lab.
-Music Program with Choir, Band, and Drama Opportunities
-Athletic Program.
-Immanuel Lutheran is conveniently located near Interstate 90, in Belvidere.

At a Glance

Judy Schaefer, Principal

•Established: 1953
•Grades: Pre-K 3 through 8
•Enrollment: 220
•Church affiliation: Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod
•Student/Teacher Ratio: From 15:2 to 24:1
•Tuition: $3,000-$4,150
•Tuition Assistance: Available
•Dress Code: Uniforms K-8
•School Mascot: Knights
•Average Teacher Education/Experience: 22 years experience; 73 percent have Master’s degree
•Athletic Conference: Rock Valley Lutheran Athletic Conference

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Concordia Lutheran School

7424 N. Second St., Machesney Park, (815) 633-6450, ConcordiaMP.com

Concordia Lutheran School provides a faith-based education where we believe each child is a unique creation of God, blessed with a special set of talents and gifts.

At Concordia Lutheran, we hope to create an atmosphere for learning that combines structure and creativity while fostering an enthusiasm for lifelong learning. We also strive to maintain a joy-filled environment which promotes love, understanding, and acceptance of self and others.

We believe that children are precious gifts from God, and as such, we, in partnership with their parents, strive to nurture students to achieve academic excellence, spiritual growth, good citizenship, leadership, and service to the community that honor and glorify the Lord Jesus Christ.

Concordia Lutheran School is recognized by the Illinois State Board of Education and the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod – Northern Illinois District.

We feature small class sizes, individualized educational programs, team-oriented and adaptable staff members, and a strong parent-teacher organization with involvement in the education process and facility management.

There are plenty of features available, including a fully functioning resource center – which consists of a library and computer lab – a gym, soccer field, playground, and designated art and Spanish rooms.

Weekly learning specials for preschool students include Spanish, music and library. Kindergarten through fifth grade specials include art, PE, music, Spanish, library, S.T.E.M. and computer privileges.

Additional band and orchestra programs are offered.

Students remain busy outside the classroom at Concordia thanks to before- and after-school programs for preschool through fifth-grade students.

In cooperation with Rockford Lutheran Academy, we offer soccer and basketball. We also offer several after-school clubs such as S.O.C Club (Seeds of Compassion Club), a service-based club where students learn how serving others benefits not only our community, but helps them grow.

Craft club, Lego club and yearbook club are a few of the clubs available to our students. Concordia hosts a monthly Literacy Night for preschool and kindergarten families. Other fun family events include Breakfast with Buddies, the Family Valentine’s Dance, and the end of school year picnic.

Tuition assistance is available. We work with families to make a private education affordable.

After completion of fifth grade at Concordia Lutheran School, students move onto Rockford Lutheran Junior High School.

At a Glance

Katie Krause, Principal
Alex Marque and Ken Krause, Pastors

•Established: 1962
•Grades: Pre-K through 5
•Enrollment: 115
•Student/Teacher Ratio: 14:1
•Church Affiliation: Lutheran, but open to all faiths
•Tuition: Pre-K: $2,400-$5,400, K-5 $6,500
•Tuition Assistance: Yes. Available to families of all sizes.
•Dress Code: Yes

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Alpine Academy of Rockford

5001 Forest View Ave., Rockford, (815) 227-8894, alpineacademyofrockford.com

Oucked in a quiet neighborhood in Southeast Rockford, Alpine Academy provides a quality education in a nurturing, family-focused Christian school. Its mission is to enrich and deepen students’ academic knowledge and spiritual faith. Teachers strive to create an environment where students grow intellectually, spiritually, emotionally and physically.

Alpine Academy is accredited, is a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Education Association (ELEA), and is recognized by the Illinois State Board of Education. Its strong curriculum in reading, mathematics, science, language arts, social studies and religion provides students with a solid academic foundation. Students receive Spanish, computer and music instruction beginning in pre-school and continuing through sixth grade. An in-house speech pathologist provides additional special-needs support. Three programs spotlighting students’ talents and skills are presented in the gym during the year. Art, band and orchestra instruction begin in third grade. Regular physical education class is provided to all students, with upper grade students participating in unique activities such as cross-country skiing, roller skating, bowling and canoeing at Pierce Lake. Numerous field trips provide students with off-campus learning experiences. Each class takes part in monthly community service projects, and the Academy is active in many charitable programs and organizations.

Alpine Academy has a fenced athletic area with a baseball field and a soccer field. It also has a protected and completely enclosed play area with slides, monkey bars, tricycles and climbing areas for all grades. Students compete interscholastically in a variety of sports and scholastic events.

At Alpine Academy, educators and parents work as a family to promote each student’s self-esteem, academic skills and Christian knowledge and values to create children who are enriched spiritually and academically, who have a dedication to lifelong learning and who are well prepared for their journey toward a successful adulthood.

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Spectrum Progressive School

4848 Turner St., Rockford, (815) 877-1600, spectrumschool.org

Ensuring the future success of your child through education is one of your top priorities. When it comes to education, everyone learns in different ways and approach makes all the difference.

Typical curriculum focuses on repetition and memorization, but at Spectrum Progressive School, students build a foundation of confidence, creativity and critical thinking that allows them to deeply engage in learning and communication.

By fostering learning as a life-long process, Spectrum Progressive involves each of its students in a personalized, action-oriented curriculum. In addition, multi-age groupings provide collaborative learning opportunities and essential social interactions. When students take ownership of their learning in a natural environment, the outcome is a community of inspired learners (and leaders) who truly make a positive impact on the world around them.

School should be a place where children feel safe on every level – socially, emotionally, academically, physically – and where they develop an excitement and passion for learning. Spectrum School is a private, non-profit, non-sectarian school focused on providing a whole-child, progressive approach to education. Find out more and schedule a tour at SpectrumSchool.org.

At a Glance

• Established: 1967
• Grades: Preschool – 8
• Enrollment: 98
• Student/Teacher Ratio: 10:1 (Pre-K) 12:1: (K-8)
• Tuition: $2,650 – $7,600 (assistance available)
• Campus: 10.5 acres natural green space