Twenty years ago North Lakes Academy was formed by a group of parents that wanted a new choice in the Forest Lake area. A middle school began educating a few dozen students in a space that was not meant to be a school. Through those early years, there was no choice but to make do with what was available for facilities, but the focus to excel in the idea of a smaller community achieving greater results proved true right away. 

Growth over time led to an Upper School of grades 9-12 being created in 2010 under a very similar blueprint. In a space that was never initially meant to be a school, students and staff learned to make do and to excel in what they could control - relational education that developed whole learners. The results have been tremendous, as NLA has graduated hundreds of students, created an organic Becoming… curriculum that is a cornerstone of our small school culture, and achieved academic success that has vaulted the school to being one of only 20 statewide to be designated a High-Quality Charter School by the Minnesota Department of Education these last two years. 

A year ago, NLA had again sought to expand and grow, this time all the way down to kindergarten – and similar obstacles presented. As NLA worked to secure a new building to house grades K-8, a sudden economic downturn led to a very stressful financial struggle. Because NLA has embodied a relational model for years, the school was able to count on both long-time supporters and newly formed business partners to work with the school and ultimately secure a project to move forward. 

The timeline was extremely tight - so much so the start of this school year was delayed two weeks just to fit it in, but the results are again fantastic. As we embark on 2020, NLA is now a K-12 district with almost 600 students being served in small class sizes, by dedicated licensed staff, in a brand new K-8 building on an incredible piece of property. NLA will continue to grow, but will never lose our sense of community by staying dedicated to class sizes of 22 at all grade levels, implementing the robust social-emotional Becoming... curriculum, and honoring our team of dedicated professionals that invest and truly know their students. 

As we take a breath this holiday season, NLA is so thankful for those who have contributed so much to this school. Because NLA is proud of all we have become over the course of 20 years, we would like to share ourselves to the community and are hosting a grand opening celebration on Monday, Jan. 13 at 4:30 p.m. located at our new K-8 site (4576 232nd St. North). Please come and celebrate along with us, ask questions about who we are and what we do, or tour the school for potential enrollment or enjoyment. Allow us to say thank you to our community as we begin the journey of another 20 years of exemplary education. For more event details, please go to

Cam Stottler is the executive director of North Lakes Academy.

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