Northwest Quarterly’s 2021 Guide to Regional Schools

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.

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.

Alpine Academy of Rockford

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

Tucked into 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. Alpine Academy has begun integrating the use of Google Chromebooks in our classrooms. Students receive Spanish, computer and music instruction beginning in preschool and continuing through sixth grade. An in-house speech pathologist provides additional special-needs support.

Alpine Academy is a ministry in partnership with Alpine Lutheran Church. Alpine Academy and the congregation of Alpine Lutheran Church together are one Alpine Family. The school has Chapel service with students weekly to encourage their faith journey.

Three programs spotlighting students’ talents and skills are presented in the gym during the year. Art, band and orchestra instruction begin in third grade. Art education begins in Kindergarten while band and orchestra programs 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 enclosed play area with slides, monkey bars and climbing areas for all grades. Students compete scholastically in a variety of sports and scholastic events.

Before and After Care programs are available for working parents so that students can interact through play in the gym or playground and work on art projects while parents complete their work day.

Alpine Academy now has a mobile application to help parents stay organized through calendars, newsletters and online forms.

Annual events include the Easter Egg Hunt, Trunk or Treat, and Alpine Academy Carnival, which are excellent opportunities to interact with the Alpine Family.

Students also participate in various programs each year, including the veterans program, Christmas program and Easter program. Students are also involved in Alpine Lutheran Church services periodically during the school year.

Alpine Academy offers a Summer Day Camp that provides a fun, safe place for students during the summer months. Registration for this year’s Summer Day Camp “Thunder Land” begins March 1.

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.

At a Glance

• Year Established: 2007
• Enrollment:  82 
• Student/Teacher ratio:  10:1
• Church Affiliation: Alpine Lutheran Church
• Tuition (per year): $5,550 Pre-K Full Day; $5,775 K-6th Grade
• Scholarships/Tuition Assistance? Yes
• Dress Code/Uniforms? Yes
• School Mascot: Purple Thunder

Concordia Lutheran School

7424 N. Second St., Machesney Park, Ill., (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 foster an atmosphere for learning that combines structure and creativity while cultivating an enthusiasm for lifelong learning. We also strive to maintain a joy-filled environment that 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.

Concordia has 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 and library. Computer usage and technology is integrated in grades K-5.

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 on to 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: 80
• Student/Teacher Ratio: 12:1
• Church Affiliation: Lutheran, but open to all faiths
• Tuition: Pre-K: $2,450-$5,500, K-5 $6,600
• Tuition Assistance: Yes, available to families of all sizes.
• Dress Code: Yes

Immanel 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 150 Chromebooks, 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 PreK-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 them 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 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.

Immanuel offers a combination of strong academics with high expectations and reasonable tuition. Immanuel’s students leave the 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 20 years with 70% 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-K3 through 8
• Enrollment: 240
• Church Affiliation: Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod
• Student/Teacher Ratio: From 16:2 to 25:2
• Tuition: $3,250-$3,500
• Tuition Assistance: Yes
• Dress Code: Uniforms K-8
• School Mascot: Knights
• Athletics: Cross Country, Soccer, Volleyball, Basketball, Track, Cheerleading

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 and IHSA, and it’s accredited by the National Association of Private Catholic and Independent Schools, AdvancED and 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 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

Evan Williams, headmaster
Alexandra Scherb, administrative assistant
• 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: Yes
• Dress Code: Uniforms
• School Mascot: Guardians
• Percentage of students who attend college: 100%
• Athletic Conference: Northeastern Athletic Conference

Rock County Christian School

916 Bushnell St., Beloit, (608) 757-1000, rccs.us

Rock County Christian School’s mission is to glorify God by partnering with parents and churches to equip students to thrive spiritually, academically, socially and physically. The school’s accolades include a State of Wisconsin School Safety Grant, a School Choice Leadership award, and accreditation from the Wisconsin Religious and Independent Schools Association.

The school’s strengths include serving students with special needs and providing a rigorous college preparatory curriculum, numerous dual credit opportunities, a loving and caring staff and a Christian worldview incorporated in classroom instruction. All students are issued Google Chromebooks for class, and classrooms are equipped with SMART Boards. 

“Our classes are generally 15 students or less,” says Ron Gruber, head of school. “That’s a strength of ours; we have small class sizes. Additionally, we incorporate a Christian worldview into all subject areas, which is an important factor for parents and families to consider.”

RCCS offers numerous programs including soccer, volleyball, basketball, drama club and tech club. A new program, e-sports, will start in the near future.

“E-Sports is competitive video gaming; we are dipping our toes in the water on that,” Gruber says.

In 2017, the school also unveiled a two-court gymnasium.

The school’s values are all Christ-centered, and its leadership looks for guidance to Bible verses such as, “We strive to do all through Christ and to please him,” (Galatians 2:20).

“We’re not affiliated with one church,” Gruber explains. “Our student body represents 40 different churches in Rock and Winnebago counties.”

RCCS distinguishes themselves from other private schools by being a non-denominational Christian school that offers kindergarten through 12th grade. The school participates in the Wisconsin Parental School Choice program and offers stable tuition rates and a highly qualified staff.

“Families may qualify for tuition vouchers, which use state education funding to pay for student tuition, allowing them to attend RCCS tuition free,” says Gruber. “That’s something that sets us apart from other private schools.”

At a Glance

Ron Gruber, Head of School
Barb Waldner, Elementary Principal

• Year Established: 1985
• Grades: K-12
• Enrollment: 270
• Student/Teacher Ratio: 14:1
• Church Affiliation: N/A
• Tuition (per year): $4,900 (9-12), $4,500 (7&8), $4,300 (1-6) & $3,900 (K)
• Scholarships/Tuition Assistance? Yes
• Dress Code/Uniforms: Yes
• School Mascot: Eagles
• Average Experience Level of Teachers: Bachelor’s/Master’s
• Percentage of Students Who Attend College: 90%

Rockford Lutheran School

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

Have you seen “The Andy Griffith Show”? It should be required viewing for anyone who wants to understand the pace of change that defines our modern society. Think of one major difference between Mayberry and Rockford. Have you seen Andy pick up the phone and ask for Sarah, the operator who connected one caller to another? In a sense, she was a forbearer of Siri. All of our technology has given us the capability to say a name and make a telephone connection. Of course, Opie never had access to the phone. Today, our elementary students have unlimited data plans. The world has changed.

In order to keep up with the times, education must be dynamic. A static set of learning objectives is sure to limit our access to the future. Today, our students must learn how to learn. They need a context for learning. They must learn to navigate a world of information that expands daily. Our current battle with the COVID-19 pandemic has caused us to look at learning in a new way. Unfortunately, too many people in our society, and in many of our schools, simply can’t wait to “go back.” There is no going back.

At Rockford Lutheran we are driving innovation with the admonition that we must “Grow into the Change.” The change is not about remote learning. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to learning. In 2021, the explosion of online learning is unavoidable. Higher education has visibly embraced remote learning. The best post-secondary institutions understand that it is the objectives and the content that define the best courses.

Rockford Lutheran is defining what healthy educational growth looks like for our students. From preschool through senior year, we must be able to identify a successful student by what they know, what they are able to do and what they have experienced. When students come to us, a baseline assessment tells us where they are. When they leave us, we can tell how much they have grown –measured by our standards.

Curiosity has always been the driver of innovation. As countless doors open to students, a matching of interest, ability and skills will define a lifetime of success. The student who wants to be a doctor needs equal measures of experience and knowledge. Those who can’t picture themselves behind a desk should be encouraged to understand the apprenticeship model that can lead to healthy salaries and a sense of accomplishment that can be fed daily. The budding entrepreneur will want to understand the future and learn the ability to perceive the needs of a market filled with consumers in search of their own definition of success.

Ask a teacher at Rockford Lutheran what they teach and you should never hear “math,” “social studies” or “second grade.” We teach children. We have the added joy of teaching the children of God. Our calling is to help each child understand their place in God’s plan for his people. Our core values include being Christ-Centered and understanding that there is a purpose to a universe ordered by a compassionate God. We tell our students that we are called to excellence. We are too special to be mediocre. We elevate service in our teaching. Finally, we celebrate the harmony that is exhibited in a diverse student body where the experiences and aspirations of each student are integrated into our daily lives.

The Rockford Lutheran Experience is an ever-changing approach to life. Learning and teaching become not the end product but tools of growth. We are not training children for tomorrow; we are giving our kids a context for living today.

At a Glance

Don Kortze, Academic Dean
Don E. Gillingham, Executive Director
• Established: 1964
• Grades: Pre-K through 12
• Enrollment: 720
• Student/Teacher Ratio: 15:1
• Church Affiliation: Lutheran (open to all faiths)
• Tuition: From $2,385 (Pre-K) to $8,522 (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.

Tri-County Christian School

2900 W. Loras Dr., Freeport, (815) 233-1876, tricountychristian.org

The mission of Tri-County Christian School (TCCS) is to provide Christian families with Christ-centered educational experiences that emphasize the development of Christian character, educational excellence and preparation for a lifetime of service to both God and man.

TCCS is Freeport’s only independent and interdenominational Christian school, meaning it’s a school system that isn’t governed by a specific denomination (or church). It is, however, governed by a parent association with an elected board and is financially supported by tuition, fundraising and generous gifts.

TCCS was voted No. 1 in Best in the Region 2020 for Best Private School and in the top three Best in the Region 2020 for Best Nonprofit Organization. The school is an active member of the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI) and has been a member of the Greater Freeport Partnership since 2007.

The certified teaching staff is comprised of conservative Christian believers who integrate and model Christian values and attitudes into all school classes and activities.

The school provides dynamic weekly chapels and daily Bible lessons that emphasize the development of personal faith and Godly character. Students are regularly challenged regarding a vision for global and local Christian missions.

Enrollment for new families begins Feb. 15. For more information, go to tricountychristian.org.

Rock Valley College

3301 N. Mulford Road, Rockford, rockvalleycollege.edu

Get a “Running Start” on Your Future

This past year was an eventful one. The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has changed many things, including how students are educated. Rock Valley College (RVC), like many educational institutions all over the world, had to abruptly transition most courses to online instruction in the middle of the spring 2020 semester. This approach has continued into the spring 2021 semester with most courses being offered fully online. Despite the challenges, RVC has persevered and emerged stronger.

RVC faculty have completed in-depth training to create quality online learning experiences for students. With a strong emphasis on faculty communication, RVC students won’t feel isolated or lost. Additional support for students includes online learning tutorials and personal counseling to help with stress and anxiety so students can thrive in the online environment.

RVC’s career and technical programs have successfully adapted to a hybrid model that incorporates online learning and limited in-person instruction for labs. RVC has taken every precaution to make its campuses as safe as possible for students to ensure they will continue to get a quality education under these challenging circumstances. To learn more about RVC’s response to COVID-19 go to rockvalleycollege.edu/covid19.

What has not changed is the incredible value proposition of attending RVC. The cost of attending RVC is significantly less than most private colleges or state universities. In fact, students can complete a two-year degree at RVC for under $10,000, compared to $25,000 at a public four-year school, $30,000 at a private for-profit institution or $58,000 for two years at a private four-year university. There are also many financial aid opportunities to help students pay for college. More than half of RVC students receive some financial assistance, and the RVC Foundation awarded over $250,000 in scholarships last year alone.

RVC encourages anyone in the region thinking about higher education to not put it on hold due to the pandemic. Stay close to home, save significant money, and stay on track to complete by applying now at rockvalleycollege.edu/apply.

The college is also offering virtual getting started events, where prospective students can learn about the programs and services at RVC and how to get started. Each session includes the opportunity to ask the RVC admissions team questions.

View the complete schedule and pre-register for an upcoming session at rockvalleycollege.edu/webinars.

At a Glance

Statistics
• Enrollment: (5,420 credit students)
• Average student age: 24
• Minority enrollment: 34%
• Programs/Degrees: 3 transfer degrees and over 80 career and technical education degrees or certificates
• On-Campus Housing: No
• Evening/Weekend/Online Classes: Yes
Areas of Strength
• Exceptional online learning environment bolstered by strong student support
• Broadly transferable credits
• 50 percent of students receive financial aid
• An RVC program graduate can expect to earn $646,000 more over a 40-year career compared to someone who does not complete a community college program

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