Seattle Lutheran High School to shut down after this school year

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

West Seattle’s only parochial high school is closing after 44 years.

Seattle Lutheran High School, at 4100 SW Genesee on the north edge of The Junction, announced the closure to its community on Thursday, including an assembly for students.

“Lots of tears were shed,” says Hamilton Gardiner, an SLHS graduate who is president of its board of directors. We spoke with him this morning after receiving the school’s announcement, which says this wasn’t a decision made in haste:

The Board of Directors reached this decision at the end of a two-year effort with Hope Lutheran Church and School, focused on creating a viable pathway forward for the high school – a pathway leading to sustainable enrollment levels, appropriate compensation for faculty and staff, and the kind of educational experience that our students so much deserved. After considering all available information for the 2022 / 2023 academic year, including enrollment, financing, and recruitment and retention of key faculty and staff, we did not see a way forward that could safely and responsibly accomplish these objectives.

(Added) Current SLHS enrollment is 66, with 18 staff members.

Gardiner says a variety of factors contributed to the school’s situation – including the West Seattle Bridge closure, which made the school less of a draw for students from elsewhere in the city/elsewhere. A different challenge contributed as well – he says a change in the visa process for international students cost them some students starting in 2019. And of course the operational challenges of the COVID pandemic contributed as well.

One historical factor: The announcement notes that “Seattle Lutheran High School was chartered in 1976 by an association of over 30 Lutheran churches in greater Seattle and opened its doors on September 17, 1978.” Of those 30+ churches, Gardiner says, only five remain, including nearby Hope Lutheran, which has been managing SLHS since last year. That means not only far fewer “feeder” churches for the high school, but also far fewer churches donating to its operations.

SLHS won’t close until after the end of the school year, says the announcement:

Our immediate priority … is to our students and families – to finish off this year like any other, to graduate the 2022 senior class, and to assist the underclass students in transitioning to other schools. Some staff will remain employed over the next year to facilitate an orderly and thoughtful closure process.

As for what happens to the school’s 2/3-acre site, zoned for potential residential development, Gardiner says there are no plans for selling/redeveloping it. Its nonprofit ownership, the Lutheran High School Association, is tasked with utilizing the site “to further Christian education,” and he says the board will work over the next year to determine how that could be done post-SLHS. They also intend to continue to collaborate with Hope Lutheran.

SLHS isn’t just unique in being West Seattle’s only parochial high school. It’s offered innovative programs, too, such as J-Term, a period after the winter holidays in which students explore alternative learning opportunities, sometimes including travel (here’s WSB coverage from 2020).

But this year brings a lesson in loss. “This decision was incredibly, incredibly hard,” says Gardiner. Now families are looking for new schools for next year, and staff members are looking for new jobs. The last day of school at SLHS will be June 10th, with its final graduating class, the Class of 2022, closing a chapter of West Seattle education history as they accept their diplomas that night.

33 Replies to "Seattle Lutheran High School to shut down after this school year"

  • ACG April 22, 2022 (10:57 am)

    I am very sad to hear this news. Best wishes to the students and staff as they navigate this sad transition and ending. May new doors and pathways for work and education open for you all. 

  • workdowntown April 22, 2022 (11:07 am)

     I know how you feel!  I graduated from that building in 1971 – from Holy Rosary High.  Attendance had declined to unsustainable levels.  Wonder what happens next?

    • Marcia Ford April 22, 2022 (2:11 pm)

      The building was Holy Rosary High School from ’65 to ’72. (Class of ’69!) I hope they find good use of it.

  • Gina April 22, 2022 (11:16 am)

    Holy Rosary was looking to expand school space a few years back–

  • Jeepney April 22, 2022 (11:26 am)

    Very saddened to read this.  Sad for the loss of an institution, and sad for the students who will have to find a new school, which will be very challenging at this point in the year.

  • Person April 22, 2022 (11:40 am)

    This is such a loss. Such an amazing option for people looking for a smaller school community. We are so sad☹️

  • fiz April 22, 2022 (12:10 pm)

    I’ll always be grateful that SLHS was here when we needed it.Go Saints!

  • Wsresident April 22, 2022 (12:33 pm)

    Well it seems clear who would take over this space and school, HR for sure! 

  • LuSea April 22, 2022 (1:06 pm)

    Did SLHS go through the re-enrollment process for next year already and they are just letting students know now? Were parents looped in before they called all the kids into the gym and told them they were shutting down? Inconsiderate timing for all, if I remember correctly private schools usually have already gone through the re-enrollment process before March, leaving these parents and kids scrambling to find space at one of the very few other private schools in the seattle area. If they decide to just go the public school route it could also be challenging to find space, although all of this could have changed since the pandemic.

    • WSParent April 22, 2022 (2:27 pm)

      They did go through the re-enrollment process, and they did tell the kids in the gym before telling parents, and yes, most private, charter, and choice schools are done with their admissions process. So the timing of this will leave very little options for most of these kids and families. It’s a very sad situation. 

      • sam-c April 22, 2022 (3:53 pm)

        What a frustrating scramble for all the families.  Did they give the 9th grade applicants a head’s up? That process was in November- December, 2021 or so, wasn’t it?

      • Hammer in Hand April 22, 2022 (4:16 pm)

        For the caliber of students Sea Lu produces if they were to seek a private school in the area They would be welcomed with open arms

      • LuSea April 22, 2022 (4:19 pm)

        This is just so wrong on so many levels!

        • Hammer in Hand April 22, 2022 (4:40 pm)

          If you only knew… you would understand why now, never a good time but it was the right time

  • MrsT April 22, 2022 (1:28 pm)

    Prime opportunity to build some affordable housing! 

    • Peter B April 22, 2022 (3:18 pm)


    • Anne April 22, 2022 (3:57 pm)

      As of now the building isn’t for sale. 

    • Hammer in Hand April 22, 2022 (4:13 pm)

      That won’t happen!

    • Jim April 22, 2022 (5:31 pm)

      No such thing as affordable housing in West Seattle…

  • Sally Heit April 22, 2022 (5:09 pm)

    As a parent of a recent graduate (Class of 2022) the closing of Seattle Lutheran is incredibly sad for all of us. It was a perfect school for my daughter and she is thriving in her freshman year at a four- year university. She had loving teachers, played volleyball, cheered at basketball games, went to dances, and contributed to the school community and spirit. It was perfect for her. And as the school’s admissions director, the closing of this beloved school is a gut punch that one doesn’t easily recover from. Although I was not a part of this decision, I know for certain it wasn’t made in haste and was agonized over.  Re-enrollment has occurred, new students were accepted, and this decision is late in the year. Every possible chance of SLHS continuing forward was considered, down to the last minute. But, I can assure you that the first thing our staff thought of upon hearing the announcement were the students which is a testament to their character and professionalism. And as a staff, we are providing as much support as we can for our families as quickly and efficiently as possible and will continue to do so until every last student has a place for next year. I have received so many kind words and care and support from all the schools I have contacted today about student placement. I can’t thank them enough for their gracious understanding and willingness to work with us. There is no great way to deliver this kind of news, but what we knew for sure is that the students deserved to know first because it is their school. And their parents were notified at the exact same time.  Surprisingly, what our students showed us is that they can do hard things, and upon hearing the news they immediately hugged and asked staff how THEY were doing with the news. This the true spirit of the school, the Saints, a family. The school may be closing but rest assured all of us will be celebrating in the time we have left, Seattle Lutheran High School, the home of the Saints!

    • Me mama April 25, 2022 (5:08 pm)

      Yes, the students can do hard things… like try to integrate into a public high school.  I hope some of them try it!  It’s not as scary as their parents may fear it is, and excellent things are happening there.  Then students will earn some grit and be a better person for making the change to a more diverse school with a wider range of course offerings 

      • Hmmmmmmm April 26, 2022 (7:18 am)

        Me Mama, please do not begin to posit that students were not getting that at their school.  “Grit” and “being a better person” and “change making” were taught at their current school as well. There are many reasons that parents choose alternative schools, very few of them state “fear” as that reason. 

      • Howrude May 11, 2022 (8:24 pm)

        Some parents decide that smaller class sizes, focused education and simple approaches work better for their child’s learning. Really small of you to post an anti private school judgmental comment after such devastating news for so many families in our community.

  • Ws resident April 22, 2022 (5:09 pm)

    This makes me so sad.  I went to West Seattle Christian for elementary school and Seattle Lutheran for High School.  I received a wonderful education at both and they are now both closed/closing.  I know change is inevitable but it’s still not easy.

  • gebee April 22, 2022 (7:56 pm)

    Why could  a wealthy Congregation like Hope, not get more funding from the LCMS NW District  in Portland, to keep the school open?? This reminds me so much about the turmoil around the closing of LCMS Concordia University in Portland and Selma AL. Lots of bitter feelings. What are the real reasons?

    • Anne April 22, 2022 (9:53 pm)

      Wealthy Congregation??? Where do you get that from? As a member-I disagree. 

  • Parent April 23, 2022 (9:53 am)

    I am a parent and the school has been through a lot in the last few years with leadership changes and a very unclear path forward. Unfortunately, you have a school that is great but was sinking fast because the leadership was not present and that was evident from the beginning of this school year. My child informed me daily that the new principal was never present, missed meetings with students and didn’t bother to get to know any of the students. Situations where my daughter was upset and I reached out to the principal and never received a call back but instead I was passed on to someone else was beyond unprofessional. I have friends that work at middle schools in the area and was told that SL did not contact them nor did they drop off any information to recruit. Adding a teacher to the administration team did not help either,  as in no extra efforts were being made. Major disappointment. Might be a few reasons why it closed. P.S.  I would like to add a huge Thank you to all the Seattle Lutheran staff for their efforts this year as this was NOT mentioned in the letter home to the families, however, Hope sure was. 

    • SLU parent April 23, 2022 (1:02 pm)

      Same. sLU parent here and many missed opportunities to turn it around  but lacking leadership and vision also from the board. Destined to fail tbh good riddance. 

    • Slu dad April 23, 2022 (4:45 pm)

      Agree! Poor leadership and the boards weird decisions failed to turn it around and the concern was focused on Hope. Destined to fail imho. Sad for the teachers but could care less about the school, big disappointment 

  • Oh Seattle April 23, 2022 (3:00 pm)

    I’m glad that I will have moved away from West Seattle before that very unique gym building is demolished to make way for a dozen banal $1M townhouses.

  • North Admiral Resident April 24, 2022 (4:03 pm)

    I feel sorry for the students and staff who might have to undergo difficult transitions, but I’m not sorry to see an LCMS-related institution shut down. The LCMS is anti-gay, anti-woman, and anti-science, and as someone who had to be deprogrammed from LCMS teachings in my 20s, I’m glad fewer children will pass through one of their educational institutions.

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