Trinity Lutheran School of Belle Plaine is celebrating 75 years of teaching young children in its Christian day school. When Trinity Lutheran Church was established in 1890, the education of its children was one of its first goals. In 1891, a small schoolhouse was built to serve as the site for religious instruction of Trinity’s children. In 1929, this structure was replaced with a two-story building.
At the annual meeting of the voters in January of 1944, a plan for starting a Christian day school was approved by the congregation, and that fall Trinity Lutheran School opened its doors. Its first principal, Mr. Richard Grunze, taught 62 students in all eight grades.
Within a couple years, Trinity added a second teacher, Miss Adeline Bohnsack. After Mr. Grunze fell ill during the 1946-47 school year, Miss Bohnsack took over the duties of principal as well as teacher. During this time, a number of students from Dr. Martin Luther College in New Ulm helped teach the upper grades.
By 1950 Trinity Lutheran School was a firmly established arm of Trinity’s ministry and enjoyed high regard for its elementary instruction. Miss Wanda Draeger (now Mrs. Elmer Sellnow) joined Miss Bohnsack (later Mrs. Bud Baumann) on Trinity’s teaching staff. Also teaching at Trinity were Carol (Mrs. John) Buszmann for 25 years and Win Vatthauer for 42 years.
In 1951, Trinity called Mr. Melville (Mel) Schultz to serve as principal and also teacher of the upper grades. Mr. Schultz held both positions until his retirement in 1986. For many years after his retirement, Mr. Schultz visited Trinity at the beginning of the school year to make sure everything was still in good order.
By the 1960s, Trinity’s congregation and school enjoyed tremendous growth. In 1967, a new church was built, which included a school large enough for preschool through eighth grade. Classes began in the new building in the fall of 1968. By 1972, enrollment at Trinity had grown to 142 students. In 1998, Trinity School was expanded to include a Kindergarten class; the following year, a Preschool program was added. Both new programs were taught by Lavonne (Mrs. Larry) Bratsch, who served Trinity’s little ones until she retired last year.
Over the years, Trinity has had a total of nine principals, who also taught classes either full or part time. In addition, 49 full time teachers served Trinity School. All principals and teachers graduated from Martin Luther College (known as Dr. Martin Luther College prior to 1995) in New Ulm, Minnesota. Martin Luther College is the teacher training school for the Wisconsin Ev. Lutheran Synod.
Trinity School also would not have been as successful without its many volunteers and supporters. As a former student, Mary Schuldt Berg in the Class of 1966, reminisced, “The environment at Trinity was always like a big family. You could trust each other.”
Trinity School celebrates its 75-year history with a special service on Sunday, May 5, at 4:00 p.m. Pastor Michael Muehlenhardt of Cottonwood, Minnesota and a former Trinity student will officiate. A potluck dinner will follow the anniversary service. The community is welcome to join in the celebration on Sunday afternoon.
Submitted by Dan Whitney
Trinity School’s Principal