Steve Ogren walked comfortably through the hallways of Lake Region Christian School (LRCS) one week before the approaching 2012-13 school year is set to begin. An ease and excitement that’s not hard to understand, with Ogren affectionately calling LRCS “almost like home.”
In his sixth year as the school’s principal, Ogren’s familiarity comes from seeing the school in all aspects: as a student, teacher and now as principal. And with each passing year, Ogren said his passion for the school’s and student’s success grows a little bit more, just like the school itself has grown.
“I feel at home here to say the least,” said Ogren with a smile, who has spent a total of 28 years at LRCS. “And I love the niche that we (LRCS) have found in this community. I am honored and happy to have been a part of that for as long as I have.”
A 1991 graduate from LRCS, Ogren first came to the school in sixth grade after his father, Dennis, was offered a teaching position with the school by his now father-in-law and then principal, Chuck Arns. Arns was still principal when Ogren graduated from Pillsbury Baptist Bible College and returned to LRCS for a teaching position just four years after his high school graduation.
“It was always in the back of my mind (to come back and teach at LRCS),” said Ogren of the school, where his wife Tatum, also is a graduate and teaches middle school classes. “But I didn’t know for sure until I graduated from college and came back and interviewed. It just seemed like the right fit.
“I knew everybody here and it all felt very comfortable. I couldn’t say no.”
Like Ogren’s 1991 senior picture that hangs on the wall of the LRCS high school grade hallway, the private school has seen plenty of changes since being built in 1974.
Expanding from what Ogren said was originally just a few church families, LRCS has blossomed into 240 kids from kindergarten through 12th grade, made up of kids from across the Brainerd lakes area. All housed out of the school attached to First Baptist Church in Baxter, Ogren said the building has also expanded tremendously to keep up with the increased enrollment, adding a new gym and classrooms in 1998, with another 1,000-square-feet of classroom space expected to be done this fall.
“When I was here, we had around 200 (students) and the cafeteria was our old gymnasium,” said Ogren. “And we’re excited about the growth of our building and students. We ended last (school) year with about 225 kids and it looks like we’re going to start this year at 240, so we added 15 kids, which may not seem like a big deal but it really does help financially, too, to have that growth.”
Ogren said that while growth is important, the school still prides itself on the one-on-one availability with smaller class sizes. For the 2012-13 school year, LRCS will have 14 seniors — one of the bigger senior classes according to Ogren — roughly a dozen in a middle school class and an average of 16 in elementary.
Also offering extracurricular activities and dances similar to public schools, Ogren said the relationship with surrounding area schools is also a shining spot.
“Our relationship with the public schools is a good one,” said Ogren. “We’re certainly not here to compete with them, we’re a totally different niche. But working with Brainerd, Pillager and Pequot Lakes (school districts) in co-op has been really tremendous, too.”
And when the school bell rings for the new year Tuesday, it signals the time for the next wave of generation at LRCS, with Ogren commenting that he is now seeing a good number of students at LRCS who had parents that graduated from the school, including his own.
“It’s neat to see the second generation come in here,” he said. His son Trey starts second grade, daughter Sidney in seventh grade and Tyler entering eighth grade this year. “I think parents remember what was so special about this school that they want to be able to share that with their children.
“It’s great to see.”