Sierra Lutheran High unveils new campus |

Sierra Lutheran High unveils new campus

Scott Neuffer
Nevada Appeal News Service

“It’s a pretty terrible view while trying to teach,” Norm Brauer said last week.

The executive director of Sierra Lutheran High School was being facetious. He was standing in a classroom in the school’s new $6.5 million campus, gazing out the window at snow-christened Jobs Peak.

Mountains all around, Brauer said. To the northwest, the timbered shoulders of Spooner Summit. To the southeast, the rugged crest of the Pine Nut Mountains. And now, perched on a rise between East Fork Station No. 12 and Hilltop Community Church, stands the 33,000-square-foot campus of Sierra Lutheran High School. In June the school will move into its new location and open for the 2010-2011 school year.

“We’re excited,” Brauer said. “It’s been a long haul.”

Having worked with the school since it opened in Minden in 2002, Brauer said he was planning to retire this summer, but he agreed to work into the new school year until his replacement is found.

Touring the new campus on May 5, he described the past eight years as being a great experience in his life.

With the first phase of construction completed, the new campus comfortably holds 150 students spread throughout six 850-square-foot classrooms, a nearly 1,000-square-foot science lab, and an expansive entrance hall with an office area, nursing station, staff lounge, concessions stand and ticket booths.

Presently, Sierra Lutheran has 78 ninth-12th-graders. Projections for fall enrollment are already up to 95, and Brauer predicts that number will increase to 130 within the next few years.

To put things in perspective, Brauer said the 13,000-square-foot gym is roughly the same size as the old Bently engineering building where Sierra Lutheran is currently housed.

He said the school still needs to raise about $500,000 to finish the gym and the adjacent locker rooms and bathrooms.

“It could be this summer. It could be this fall or winter,” he said. “We have several irons in the fire.”

Even when the gym is finished, the present campus will only make up the first phase of development. If enrollment continues to grow, Brauer said, the school is positioned to add classrooms on the north side as well as a cafeteria and fine arts center.

“If we carry out plans, we could go up to 600 students,” he said.

The campus sits on 38 acres leased from the Bureau of Land Management. Brauer said the BLM is required to set aside a small percentage of their acreage to nonprofit organizations. He said the California/Nevada/Hawaii district of the Lutheran church got a hold of the Sunridge property more than a decade ago, but was not sure what to do with it.

Fortunately, Sierra Lutheran had some grand ideas. And now, where the eastern edge of the property dips and unfurls to the Sunridge subdivision, Brauer envisions verdant athletic fields.

Yet, future expansion will depend on the economy, he said. It will hinge on growth in the area and continued demand for a high-quality private school.

Brauer said when Sierra Lutheran first started, about 85 percent of the student body came from Carson Valley. That balance has now shifted to where 55 percent of students come from Carson City.

With the new campus centrally located between both areas, and conveniently close to Highway 50 and the future Highway 395 bypass, Brauer predicts more students will be drawn from Dayton,

Lake Tahoe and other


Brauer said the development process has been a collaborative effort between those who believe in the school’s mission. In 2006, the school began feasibility studies on a new campus. By February 2009, they’d broken ground on the new site.

Despite a rotten economy, Sierra Lutheran was still able to raise about $1.5 million through gifts and pledges.