Late last year, Forest Lake’s two charter schools, North Lakes Academy and Lakes International Language Academy, went out to bid for funding to build their new buildings or additions. Both schools experienced delays in funding due to an initial tight bond market, but both ultimately were granted funding to build new spaces in January and February, respectively.
Though the funding delay created some delays in early projected timelines, both projects have been underway since this winter. Both building projects are currently running on time and on budget, though it will be a tight timeline for both.
On June 21, 2018, North Lakes Academy was approved by the Minnesota Department of Education to provide kindergarten through fourth grades, which prompted the need for expansion. The school decided to build a new K-8 school on the west side of Forest Lake, just off Broadway behind Cub Foods. NLA will still use its ninth through 12th grade campus behind Target and Walmart.
North Lakes Academy is currently projecting to open to kindergarten through fifth graders two weeks after the traditional start after Labor Day.
“That’s just to ensure [against] last minute things that can happen; we don’t want to say we’ll start on Sept. 3 and then say ‘Oops, sorry,’ so we made the decision to just start on the 16th,” NLA Executive Director Cam Stottler said. “The really nice thing about it is it allows us as administration to train those brand new teachers for two more weeks.”
Because of the delay, the school will hold a day care center for those two weeks at Maranatha Assembly of God Church in Wyoming, so families of those children don’t have to worry about child care during that period.
Sixth through eighth graders will remain in the same location as they were last year until December, when construction is slated to be finished.
The building project includes a varsity-sized gymnasium, a multimedia center and commons area, new art and science classrooms, and office space.
Lakes International Language Academy is currently going through an expansion of two of its three campus sites, which officials say has been necessary because of growing enrollment.
“We’ll have about 100 kids more in the fall,” LILA Executive Director Cam Hedlund said. For the upcoming school year, “It’ll be tight,” Hedlund said. LILA will continue to utilize portable classrooms behind its Headwaters campus behind the YMCA until the completion of construction, currently anticipated for February. The biggest project, at its Headwaters campus, will add a new main entrance and offices, media center, auditorium, music classrooms, an art and science wing, and varsity size gymnasium to its current site, at a total size increase of more than 50,000 square feet.
“We’ll still be full. We’ll be utilizing every room at all times,” Hedlund said.
The school also began construction to expand the classroom space in its early childhood location, located just across the street from its upper school on 11th Avenue.
Both schools do not plan to expand any more than the current projects at their current locations. If the schools fill up and demand suggests expansion, both schools would plan to build new schools on new sites.