Christian school can’t move forward at Sherman School site due to deed restriction, district says

Plan Commission recommended building’s use, but deed restriction a separate issue

Tony (left) and Eluvinda Loera, of Adonai Ministries in Aurora, speak Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022, in front of the Streator Plan Commission about their request to convert the former Sherman School building into a Christian elementary school.

The Streator Plan Commission recommended Tuesday the former Sherman School building may be used as a kindergarten through 12th grade daytime school.

That does not mean the vacant building will become a school, however.

For starters, the Plan Commission’s recommendation will need City Council approval. Secondly, a deed restriction was placed on the property preventing it from becoming an elementary school when the Streator Elementary District sold it to an LLC that planned to use the building for teaching adult Chinese students English as a second language.

An Aurora church is requesting to start a Christian school in the former Sherman School site in Streator.

An attorney representing the Streator Elementary District wrote to City Engineer Jeremy Palm saying the district will vigorously enforce the deed restriction prohibiting the property from being used as a kindergarten through eighth-grade educational facility.

Adonai Ministries, of Aurora, requested the special use permit from the city of Streator with interest in buying the former Sherman School building at 1206 E. Elm St., and turning it into a private Christian school geared toward local K-12 children.

Palm said the Plan Commission’s scope was limited: The panel would need to determine whether a school is the proper use for the facility. The deed restriction is a legal matter that would need to be settled with the school district, he told representatives from Adonai Ministries.

The Plan Commission voted 4-1 in favor of recommending the special use of the building as a school, with Chairman Robert Gubbels voting against it.

Eluvinda and Tony Loera, who were in attendance Tuesday, said they are interested in expanding their Christian ministry, which has operated for more than two decades in Aurora. The ministry doesn’t operate a school at this time, but the property listing piqued their interest, Tony Loera said.

Details on the size, tuition cost and curriculum of the school still were up in the air, Tony Loera said, because he wanted to see if he’d be able to obtain the special use permit from the city first and settle the issue with the Streator Elementary District before moving forward.

There will be no boarding of students and the school would be geared toward local students, with a traditional lesson plan centered around the Bible, Tony Loera said.

He said if the school failed, the ministry would resell the building.

The Streator Elementary District sold the former Sherman School to Foreign (Chinese) Service Group, LLC. After the LLC abandoned its plans to open an adult school teaching English as a second language to Chinese students, it has not maintained the property, Palm said. The engineer indicated the city is maintaining the exterior of the property through code enforcement. The LLC has no American citizens on its board, Palm said. He added the building has had issues with breaking and enterings, as well as vandalism.