FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What exactly is a charter school?
A charter school is a tuition-free, independent public school that welcomes all students regardless of ability or need. Charter schools are governed and operated jointly by licensed teachers, parents, and community members (Minnesota Association of Charter Schools).
Are there fees or tuition to attend your school?
No; North Lakes Academy is a public school district. As such, it is tuition free.
Are you part of the Forest Lake Area school district?
North Lakes Academy is its own independent district serving a unique community spread across the Lakes Area; however, we contract with Forest Lake Area Schools (FLAS) for transportation.
North Lakes Academy
What is the average class size?
At North Lakes Academy the average class size is 20 students, and class sizes are capped at 22 students. This continues to be a top priority as the school expands into the new K-8 facility.
How is North Lakes Academy different from other schools?
Smaller class sizes enable our educators to better serve the needs of individual students. We provide an innovative, well-rounded liberal arts curriculum that is designed to produce college and career-ready students.
What makes North Lakes successful?
Small class sizes and a staff to student ratio of 13:1 have earned NLA several recognitions. In 2017, School Digger rated NLA in the top 12% of schools in the state and #1 in the geographic area. In 2018 and 2019, the Minnesota Department of Education designated NLA as a High-Quality Charter School based on its test scores, attendance, and graduation rates. Out of 430 public high schools, Niche.com ranks North Lakes Academy as the 14th best in the state of Minnesota.
What is the philosophy of education at North Lakes?
"Who You Become Is As Important As What You Achieve" North Lakes invests heavily in teaching social-emotional skills at all grade levels and in all classes. These “soft skills” of self-regulation, planning, confidence, and responsibility give students what they need to be successful not only in school, but in life as well.
"Growth Toward Independence" We coach our students to take on more responsibility as they get older. We pride ourselves on establishing developmentally expectations to help each student grow toward independence and be successful in their post-secondary education and careers.
Does North Lakes Academy offer elective courses such as band, art, shop, et cetera?
We have band, choral, and fine arts programs for grades 5-12, and we are also beginning to offer more technology-based courses, such as computer programming. We do not offer shop classes, but continue to strive to serve the demands of our families, and are consistently creating new courses to serve the needs and interests of our students.
Is college credit available at the North Lakes Academy Upper School?
NLA offers Advanced Placement (AP), College-in-the Schools (CIS) and Post-secondary Enrollment Option (PSEO) courses to our high school students. These courses are well-attended. In 2018, for example, 85% of our seniors graduated with college credit.
Are Minnesota state tests (MCAs, GRAD, et cetera) administered at North Lakes?
Yes. As a public school, we are required by law to administer all of the standardized tests. But because of our low student-to-teacher ratio and strong, standards-based curriculum, NLA students have a high rate of success on such assessments. Additionally, families are welcome to opt-out of state testing for their students. More information is available on the “Assessments” page of our web site.
What athletic teams are available?
Our athletic opportunities for grades 6-12 include: soccer, volleyball, cross country, basketball, track and field, baseball, softball, and trap-shooting. Fundamental skills and sports clubs are offered after school for K-5 students as well. NLA is a member of the Minnesota High School League in the Twin Cities Athletic Conference.
What clubs and activities are available? A variety of after-school clubs and student-led activities are available throughout the school year such as robotics, debate, marching band, National Honor Society (NHS), yearbook, drama, various musical ensembles, and various enrichment clubs based on student interests.
Special Education and Gifted & Talented Services
Are Special Education and Gifted and Talented accommodations offered? Yes. We have highly skilled, experienced special education professionals at both campuses to meet the needs of students who need accommodations and/or enrichment.
Does NLA have a school nurse? We contract with a nursing service to provide oversight and training of our staff: the nurse coordinates vision and hearing screening, manages immunization forms, and handles prescription intakes while our wellness staff handles the day-to-day duties in the nursing office.
Start & End Times and School Year Calendar
What are the start and end times for the school day?
Our K-12 school day is 7:50 AM to 2:14 PM. Pick up and drop off times may change slightly due to our reliance on the Forest Lake Area Schools bus garage for transportation; however, they do not vary significantly.
What does your yearly school calendar look like?
We follow the same schedule as Forest Lake Area Schools’ middle and high schools. Note: we do not follow the half-days and elementary-only days off on the FLAS calendar.
How does transportation work?
North Lakes contracts with FLAS to provide busing for students who live within ISD #831 boundaries.
Do you have busing for students who do not live in the Forest Lakes Area district?
No, busing is only offered to students living inside the ISD #831 boundaries; however, many of our families outside ISD #831 find that carpooling is easy and effective. If you have further questions, please contact the school.
What is the shuttle busing system?
Because ISD #831 is such a large geographic district, it coordinates busing by bringing all buses to Forest Lake Middle School. From there, students transfer to school-specific buses and are “shuttled” to North Lakes schools. At the end of the school day, this process happens in reverse; Forest Lake High School is the afternoon hub.
How does NLA ensure the safety of the elementary students on the buses with older students and during the shuttle transfer process?
NLA is committed to staffing the transfer point at the beginning of the school year to help guide elementary students to the correct shuttle bus both in the morning and afternoon. Drivers tend to sit the younger students in the front of the bus and the older students toward the back.
When can I enroll my student?
Enrollment can take place as early as September of the year before your student will be attending. For example, a student who will be in kindergarten for the 2020-21 school year can register as early as September 2020.
How does enrollment work?
By Minnesota law, all new registrations are considered equal until a February lottery date. In February, open seats are filled via a lottery system. Seats remaining after the lottery are filled on a first come, first-served basis.
Do siblings get automatic admission?
Yes, siblings get preference unless a grade is full, in which case there is no space to make the exception.
How is food provided in North Lakes schools?
We contract with a school lunch caterer to provide daily hot lunches and cold breakfasts. Kindergarteners are provided free breakfasts, per state statute.
Can food allergies be accommodated?
Yes. Please provide our Enrollment Director with documentation of the food allergy before the start of the school year.
How many sections* of each elementary grade is NLA planning for the 2020-2021 school year?
1st grade-- 3 sections each
2nd grade—2 sections
3rd grade—2 sections
4th grades-- 2 sections
5th grade—3 sections
*Administration may add sections pending sufficient enrollment numbers and the ability of NLA to continue to staff for quality programming.
What specialist teachers are at the elementary?
For the 2019-2020 school year, we offer physical education and STEAM specialists for grades K-5; fifth grade also has an optional music program. As the elementary population grows, more specialists will be added, including music and art.
What elementary events happen during the school year?
Open House, parent-teacher conferences, Grandparent’s Day, holiday celebrations, Trunk or Treat, a book fair, and a year-end picnic are just some of the events we hope to host in the coming year.
School-Age Care (SAC)
Is there a SAC program on-site? Yes. Connections Care offers programming on-site 6:15am-6pm on school days, professional development days, and during some school holidays such as MEA. Registration information is available on the elementary section of the website.
What volunteer opportunities are available to parents and families?
We always welcome volunteers to help with front office tasks, lunch and recess monitoring, reading and math tutoring, and for assistance at a variety of events hosted throughout the year. Contact our Enrollment Director for more information.