Snohomish school the launching pad for generations
By LESLIE MORIARTY
SNOHOMISH — It has been 75 years since Louis Kuhlman sat in a wooden school desk in the Zion Lutheran Church at the corner of Avenue A and Fourth Street, practicing his penmanship.
But he can still remember that special day when he won recognition from teacher George Beckman.
"He said I had the best-formed R in the class," he said. "It was one of my proudest days."
Kuhlman, who is in his 80s, is part of the 100-year history of the school, now on 15 acres north of Snohomish. What began as a one-room schoolhouse in 1901 with a few pupils is today a campus of several buildings and more than 300 students.
The school has provided a Christian education to children, preschool through eighth grade, teaching the fundamentals of reading, writing and arithmetic, and specialties including German and religion.
When the school first opened, lessons were taught in German because the origin of the church was the German Lutheran Church.
As the school and church grew, a new building was built in Snohomish. That was the school Kuhlman attended. By 1923, there were 100 students. The lower grades were taught in one room, the upper grades in another.
Classes grew, and during the 1950s a parish hall was built for more church and classroom space. Soon after, some classes had to be moved to other locations. Area churches offered space, and one class moved to the Maltby community center.
In 1978, construction of a new school began at the present site. Named for the first Zion teacher, M.C. Kosche, the building opened in 1979.
Today, classes meet there and in several portable classrooms. The school has a playground and gymnasium
Principal Jim Lynch said enrollment has grown to 320. About 20 percent of the students are members of the local Zion church, 60 percent belong to other Lutheran churches and 20 percent claim no church affiliation.
The school operates as a fully accredited private school and has 13 teachers. In the early days, it was financially supported by the parish, but today students pay tuition. The basic cost is $3,800 per year.
Lynch thinks the school has survived 100 years because of its religious ties.
"The simple answer is God," he said. "But there have always been so many dedicated people involved in this school. The teachers, the parents and the students, they all do their part."
Family tradition is a part of the school. Kuhlman’s children attended Zion, and his daughter, Elizabeth Sackman, is the school secretary. Nine of Kuhlman’s 24 grandchildren have attended Zion, and two are currently enrolled.
"Family is important to this school," Kuhlman said. "It’s never been a rule in our family. But more of us have gone to Zion than haven’t."
When Kuhlman was in school, lessons were mostly about the ABCs, numbers and reading primers. There were daily devotions, and he had homework every night.
"We had to memorize a Bible verse or a hymn or one of the 10 Commandments," Kuhlman said. "Then we had to stand up and recite them by heart the next day."
What he really liked was the special assignment the boys received.
"The older boys always looked forward to getting to shove the wood in the old furnace that heated the building," he said. "It was in the basement, and we used to call it the dungeon."
Kuhlman graduated from Snohomish High School, served in the Army, picked apples in Eastern Washington and then landed a job with the post office. He worked there 38 years and retired in 1980.
He has always supported the school, and has watched it struggle through hard times.
"There were years when we thought we might have to close," he said. "But enough parents have always stuck with it to make things work."
With growth as it is, school officials hope to consider adding a high school.
Students have been successful at various academic, recreational and sporting events, and there’s a wall of awards from competitions in the Lutheran Education Schools Tournaments.
"It’s the combination that makes the difference," Lynch said. "Our students are very well prepared academically for their future. But they also are prepared here to go forward and be the kind of caring people that the world needs."
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