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Education School

A dream finally realized: Concordia Lutheran Schools of Omaha


Sometimes, a dream feels far off. It can feel down the road, something that might come together after everything has been meticulously planned and prepared.

Other times, the moment arrives when least expected, and it’s now or never. Concordia Lutheran Schools of Omaha knows precisely what that is like.

The schools—including elementary, junior, and senior high—were founded in 1996 as elementary schools. In 2001, the school launched the junior high as well as grades 9 and 10 when a family donated 38.5 acres of land to the school. By 2004, K-12 was up and running, but on two separate campuses.

As wonderful as it was to have their schools growing and thriving, Concordia looked forward to the day they might have the whole school on one campus.

“It’s been a 25-year dream of the school to get all of the grades under one roof, especially with the 40 acres of land,” said Rob Cooksey, head of schools for Concordia. “We talked with multiple groups of parents, pastors, donors and friends, and it became apparent that a unified single campus was the vision.”

So, they began planning.

A debt-reduction campaign was started to nudge the school into a better financial position so that they could finally discuss putting their long-held dream into action someday. Perhaps God had other plans for Concordia because “someday” came much sooner than anyone could have expected.

“We were in the middle of the debt-reduction campaign when we got word that we needed to find a new location for our elementary school in midtown Omaha,” recalled Cooksey. “And we had only 18 months to do it.”

Thankfully, the community received that news incredibly well.

“They responded generously, and we started the ‘Thrive’ campaign to find a new home for our Concordia Academy,” he added. “We started renovation before we started talking with donors. For the current school year, over last summer, we claimed 10,000 sq. ft. of office space and another 3,000 sq. ft. of auxiliary gym and worship space for new classrooms.”

To get it all moving forward quickly, Concordia called on Lutheran Church Extension Fund (LCEF) to help finance a loan and make the project possible.

“We wouldn’t have thought of anyone but LCEF,” explained Cooksey. “Looking around, you discover that the landscape with LCEF is opportunistic. They understand Lutheran schools and churches, are competitive in the market, and work with you in unusual times, like when you need to borrow money but have not yet started a campaign!”

“Concordia had to quickly turn what could have been a disaster into what is arguably one of best moves for the school,” said Dan Brown, vice president of national lending at LCEF. “They had to pull together in a short time. Usually, a project like this takes two or three years, from beginning to end, with raising money and getting a contractor and architect. But they marched forward, knowing this was the right thing to do. They were very positive and forward-thinking, with no doubt that this was God’s plan. They made decisions and moved forward with a great plan to care for the families.”

From vision to reality

Since Concordia chose to renovate the existing space, the school staff would be displaced for the school year as administrative spaces were quickly converted into classrooms.

“We have our finance and advancement teams working out of an athletic storage closet over the gym, the school office in a converted meeting room, and other office staff deployed all over the building wherever there was a nook or cranny,” laughed Cooksey, who offices out of the school’s lunchroom. “There is an inconvenience for sure, which we knew going in, but the staff and the parents are super supportive for getting to the finish line.”

In addition to new classrooms, Concordia’s project also included a worship and performing arts center, additional classrooms, and new office space on the front of the building. The project also benefits Concordia’s partnership with King of Kings Church, a long-term partner who is launching a church home inside the worship and arts center. For the 700-plus students expected for fall 2024 and the families whose students are finally all on the same campus, this project is more than just a renovated building and new spaces to gather—it’s fulfilling a vision that has felt far away for many years.

“[This project] paves the way for the future, giving us an established vision for ministry focused on generosity, partnerships and a unified school campus, and a chance to work with kids from all over the greater Omaha area,” said Cooksey.

“Students come from 85 different area churches, and an increasing number don’t have a church home. This vision reflects the future of Lutheran Christian education, which is growing and increasingly needs to be agile and nimble. We’re so thankful.”