Impact Academy program will continue to be offered

Orchard Lake Elementary School will go back to its original name at the start of the 2020-21 school year, as Lakeville Area School District administration decided to return it to a traditional elementary with the Impact Academy program offered as a choice.

The decision, which was communicated to parents on Monday night, was made in an effort to address rising enrollment throughout the district, along with recognizing that school-wide program of Impact Academy at Orchard Lake was not attracting enough students to fill the building.

Impact Academy, which is a program that focuses on future ready skills and personalized and service learning, enrolled 351 students this year in the building that has a target utilization of 532. Four of the district’s eight elementary schools are operating above or near their target utilization.

Students who live within the Orchard Lake boundaries, but currently attend other schools can either continue at their current school or enroll at Orchard Lake. 

The hope is that many of the families in the Orchard Lake boundaries will switch back to the school that will have a traditional program offered and Impact Academy for grades 1-5 “as space allows,” the district said.

In an update to the policy since this story was first reported Jan. 16, school district provided bus transportation will continue to be offered for those students already open enrolling from Orchard Lake to Christina Huddleston for the next six years. Families of students in the Orchard Lake attendance area who are new to open enrollment will have to provide their own transportation to and from school. 

“This was a difficult decision,” wrote Superintendent Michael Baumann, “but I do believe the district will be better positioned to serve our elementary students through this transition by accommodating our current and future needs and growth.”

The decision was made at this time in advance of 2020-21 enrollment decisions by families and kindergarten open house events.

The district has already approved two, 10-classroom elementary school building additions at Cherry View (opened in 2019) and Lake Marion (to open fall 2020), and the School Board is reviewing a long-range plan that could add two, 650-student capacity elementary schools and a middle school in the next five-plus years. Another meeting to review the long-range plan was Wednesday after this edition went to press.

Christina Huddleston Elementary School has accepted many of the Orchard Lake open enrollment students as its population of 553 is close to its target utilization of 560, according to the district.

School Board members have discussed the Impact Academy and Orchard Lake program and its enrollment below capacity at recent long-range facilities planning work sessions.

Board members’ comments were split on the whole-school Impact Academy approach with some ready to move away from it, while others defended the program as helping students in the long run.

By continuing the Impact Academy program inside a traditional school, it is hoped that students can still benefit from the program and fully utilize the building as space is at a premium in the district.

Orchard Lake’s boundary includes a western portion of Lakeville, a southern portion of Burnsville and a portion of Credit River Township.

This won’t be the first time that Impact Academy has operated as a program inside Orchard Lake.

It ran as a choice program from fall 2013 to spring 2016.

In the 2016-17 school year, it became a schoolwide program as the building has been known as Impact Academy at Orchard Lake since then.

Tad Johnson can be reached at tad.johnson@ecm-inc.com.

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