I think we would all agree that learning doesn’t begin in kindergarten or end after 12th grade. There’s a whole lifetime of learning that happens outside of the K-12 classroom. People of all ages are enriched and inspired when they discover new things.

That’s where community education comes in. Back in 1971, recognizing that school districts are the educational leaders of local communities, and uniquely positioned to offer extended learning, the Legislature established community education as a part of our public school system intended to serve people from birth, through childhood and into all ages and stages of adulthood.

Forest Lake Area Schools Community Education has a stated vision of “Engaging people; enriching lives!” Our goal is to provide meaningful and relevant lifelong learning and recreational opportunities to better the lives of individuals and our entire community. Community education has the added benefit of utilizing K-12 facilities outside of regular school hours, when they might otherwise go unused.

Our team works tirelessly to turn community wants and needs into a reality, which often requires us to be flexible, creative and responsive. During the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, when so many community activities were locked down, our team at FLASCE made the decision to be as open as health guidance would allow, and continue to provide a full catalog of options for our community.

At that time, we began offering some classes virtually, and discovered that people really enjoyed that format for certain types of classes, like cooking and various exercise classes, for example.

Even though we are now able to continue our full selection of in-person opportunities, we still continue to look for the best ways to offer cost-effective learning and enrichment opportunities. As a result, the lives of many are positively impacted on an almost daily basis.

If you have never had the opportunity to take part in a community education class or activity, watch your mailbox this month for our winter catalog. It is full of classes and activities for all ages, from early childhood on up through retirement age. There’s a wide variety of categories to explore, from sports and physical activity to art activities and life skills like financial planning. There’s something there for everyone.

Last week we celebrated National Community Education Day. FLASCE ran a Facebook promotion where people were asked to share a positive past experience and/or what they are looking forward to with regard to an upcoming experience. The responses were overwhelming and humbling. They also reflected the broad diversity of programming offered for all ages. To read comment after comment about how much people love, value, and look forward to their Community Education experiences is just a sample of the true impact FLASCE has on our community. 

Corey McKinnon is the director of community education for the Forest Lake Area School District.

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