Lutheran High School gets school safety grant

Douglas County legally obligated to give private schools grants, commissioners say


Douglas County awarded the private Lutheran High School with $134,351 from its school safety grant program on Feb. 25.

Douglas County commissioners launched the grant initiative in May after a shooting at STEM School Highlands Ranch earlier that month. The board offered $10 million in one-time funds for mental health and physical security projects in county schools — private, charter and public.

Lutheran is a private, Christian school in Parker enrolling 690 students. Dan Gehrke, Lutheran's executive director, said the money will make a difference for the school and thanked commissioners for including private schools in the initiative.

“Private school is a difficult business. It's a razor-thin margin,” he said. “I'm just here to say thanks. I get that public funding and private schools is fraught with pitfalls and disagreements.”

Commissioner Abe Laydon referenced the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer, which addressed whether a state grant program could be awarded to religious institutions in Missouri and landed in Trinity Lutheran's favor.

The board believes the case means the county must award the grant dollars to private schools as well, although some community members have raised concerns about giving the institutions public tax dollars. The board awarded $263,337 to another Parker private school, Southeast Christian School, in January.

“We don't have any other legal right than to make sure that you are funded as well,” Laydon told Gehrke.

Roger Partidge, chair of the board of commissioners. said the process of awarding the grants, which began with a $6.8 million grant to the Douglas County School District in January, has helped the board hear personal stories explaining how grants will help schools.

“I don't think we realized the impact that this was going to make,” Partridge said.


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