Frequently Asked Questions About LILA

Q. Where can I learn more about immersion?

A. Read the article, “What Parents Want To Know About Immersion Education,” written by Dr. Tara W. Fortune, Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition (CARLA), University of Minnesota, and Dr. Diane J. Tedick, Department of Curriculum and Instruction, University of Minnesota. The CARLA FAQ is also helpful. Other resources can provide more insights, too, and we’re happy to recommend books and articles.

Q. How can parents help with homework?

A. Just as in any school, the parents’ role is to help children do their homework by providing a routine for homework time, a quiet place to work, good lighting, and the tools (dictionaries, writing utensils, and sometimes computer access) that students need. This role can be fulfilled regardless of the language of the homework or the language(s) parents speak (or don’t speak). Many parents are reassured when they learn that most homework in early years is project based. Teachers are very good at communicating with parents, and send or e-mail a letter home each week that typically highlights what students are learning, homework expectations, and what parents can do to help. See our Resources page for more ideas for parents. We also have suggestions for learning help for students.

Q. Should my K-5 child be completing math homework in Spanish/Chinese or English?

A. Your child is learning math concepts in the target language at school. Homework for grades k-5 is sent home in both languages to help parents better understand and support what their child is learning at school. It is important for parents to support their child’s ability to recognize and say basic numbers, colors, and shapes in the target language. As concepts become more complicated, practicing in English could help introduce terms in English, reinforce concepts, and make it easier for you to support your child at home.

Q. What do I do if I notice homework is hard for my child or if she is doing it wrong?

A. A general rule of thumb is that if you notice your child becoming frustrated or upset by the homework, take a break. This includes if you notice yourself becoming frustrated by the time you spend trying to explain it. The next day, communicate challenges you see with homework to your child’s teacher.

Q. Is there before- and after-school care available?

A. Yes, we call it Explorer Club. This childcare is available from 6 am to the start of school and from the end of the school day until 6:15 pm. The program is also available in the summer to all LILA students, including incoming kindergartners. Fees are based on frequency of attendance and number of hours required per day. Contact the Explorer Club office for more information or to register.

Q. In what language will childcare be offered?

A. Currently, the primary language for the Explorer Club School-Age Care is Spanish. As enrollment in Chinese immersion grows, LILA will continue to hire Chinese speakers for the before- and after-school program. Often the groups are combined for various activities, no matter the immersion language. Many parents will consider this an advantage, as research shows that children can learn to use as many languages as adults can provide for them. Some immersion schools, in fact, provide two immersion languages as a matter of course; these programs are known as “double immersion” programs.

Q. What are the hours of the school day?

A. Our school day runs from 7:50-2:10.

Q. What events should I know about?

A. Upcoming events are listed on LILA’s online calendar. The newsletter, LILA Update, also lists upcomign events. LILA parents are encouraged to visit the calendar for updates and to subscribe or “opt-in” to certain groups or events to automatically be informed of changes. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter for the most up-to-date information, too.

Q. What is the school calendar?

A. Lakes International Language Academy, ISD #4116, follows a calendar that is similar to Forest Lake Area Schools, ISD #831. The first day of school is after Labor Day. Specific teacher work days and other days when no classes are scheduled are shown on our academic calendar

Q. How does immersion work? Does it work for everyone?

A. At Lakes International Language Academy, our K-5 curriculum is taught in Spanish or Mandarin Chinese. Using many teaching techniques to support students’ initially limited understanding of Spanish or Mandarin Chinese, teachers are able to not only teach all elementary content, but by the end of elementary school, also succeed in creating bilingual and bi-literate students! In Minnesota, we’re fortunate that a prestigious national resource for immersion research is located here. We highly recommend that you check out the Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition at the University of Minnesota. We ask our faculty to attend immersion training at CARLA and we often engage with the CARLA staff on immersion topics. In addition, LILA has been named a Confucius Institute Classroom school and we have a sister school in China as part of our Mandarin Chinese program.

Q. How is the International Baccalaureate curriculum implemented?

A. Teacher input is a core value of Lakes International Language Academy. The proven International Baccalaureate curriculum involves a comprehensive and ongoing training component for teachers. The teachers and the on-staff IB curriculum coordinators shape the entire program, grade by grade, to meet the rigorous IB standards as well as Minnesota and federal requirements. The LILA Lower School is an accredited IB World School, featuring the IB Primary Years Programme. For Upper School grades 6-10, we are accredited to offer the IB Middle Years Programme for grades 6-10 and the IB Diploma Programme for grades 11 and 12. Visit the IB website for more information.

Q. Does LILA offer Special Education services?

A. Like all Minnesota public schools, Lakes International offers services to students who qualify for Special Ed. We have a Special Education Director, and hire and/or contract with licensed Special Ed teachers, offering the full range of Special Ed services at both the Lower School and Upper School.

Q. Does Lakes International Language Academy offer an enrichment program?

A. The IB program fosters differentiation and encourages accelerated learning opportunities that adapt well to all students, including high performers. In fact, some schools have chosen the IB or this very reason. LILA’s enrichment coordinator works with teachers to help them prepare to challenge all students appropriately. The language immersion component also provides a highly engaging facet for all students. In addition, clases especiales at the LILA Lower School and I-Terms at LILA Upper School inspire engaged learning. 

Q. Who are the teachers and how are they selected?

A. The staff directory provides a biographical sketch of each of our staff members. Some of the criteria used to select Lakes International Language Academy staff include:
    • Native or near-native fluency in students’ target language
    • Enthusiasm for creative teaching opportunities
    • Global awareness and appreciation for global perspectives
    • Enthusiasm toward the rigorous IB program
    • Genuine caring attitude toward children and their education
    • Responsiveness toward parents who value education

Q. Will I receive regular communication from my child’s K-5 teacher?

A. Starting with the first week of school, you should receive a weekly newsletter from your child’s teacher, concerning classroom schedules and activities. We also encourage an open flow of communication between teacher and parent, such as e-mail, phone conversations, or in-person meetings. Parent-teacher conferences will also be scheduled in August as well as during the school year during October and March.

Q. What are the school policies?

A. The LILA school policies outline school operations as well as staff and student conduct. The LILA school board has put policies in place to encourage a strong and positive organization that can bring about a deep and rich educational experience.

Q. How many children are in my child’s class?

A. Class size is determined and adjusted by the Lakes International Language Academy Board of Directors, consisting mainly of LILA teachers and parents. Currently, our average class size is 21. Immersion classes rarely increase in pupils once a kindergarten group starts. The nature of immersion education makes it difficult for new students to enter the program in later years, say 2nd or 3rd grade. Their classmates will be speaking in their target language with considerable proficiency by then; new students must play catch-up. For this reason, immersion schools often plan for attrition—students moving away or leaving the school—by allowing a slight bump up in class size in some grades. LILA is fortunate to have Language Ambassadors, adult native-language speakers, who assist teachers in classrooms and provide students extra classroom attention.

At the Upper School, LILA has the smallest class sizes in the area for most subjects.

Q. How can I prepare my kindergartener for school?

A. When your child is three or four years old, consider enrolling her or him in our partial-day Kinder Prep program. For your kindergartener, tell your child why you’re so excited that s/he will be attending Lakes International Language Academy. Meet other families and join the LILA PTO. Children adapt amazingly well to new environments (even the ones who start out rather skeptical). Honestly, we see more tears from parents on the first day of kindergarten than from the students.

Q. What is a “Kindergarten Welcome Conference”?

A. Held near the end of August, this conference gives parents and students a chance to meet individually with the child’s teacher, get an overview of the curriculum, ask questions, and tell the teacher a little about the child and family. This meeting time also allows the child to meet his/her teacher, removing a large “unknown” for the student and providing assurance. For the school, the welcome conference is a chance to get to know the student, open the lines of communication, let parents know how they can help their children, suggest how parents can help the teacher and school to benefit their children, and describe what events they can expect through the year.

Q. Who needs to attend Kindergarten Welcome Conferences?

A. At least one parent/guardian must attend the conference with the child. Both parents are strongly encouraged to attend. Kindergarten students whose families do not attend a welcome conference without contacting the school may be removed from the enrollment roster and replaced by children on the waiting list.

Q. How does busing work?

A. Lakes International Language Academy contracts with Forest Lake ISD #831 for busing service. LILA students who live within the ISD #831 boundaries are picked up and dropped off on the same routes with the junior/senior high school students, along with the children attending St. Peter’s, North Lakes Academy, and the public Montessori school. (How do you know if you live within District 831? Visit the voter info page at; after you enter your address, look at the bottom of the page for a green box that says "Districts for this address" and you will see a school district listed in the right-hand column. If it says, "Forest Lake (831)," then you are within our bus boundary.) A shuttle from the junior high school (either Century or Southwest, depending on your residence) brings students to Lakes International, and delivers them back to the senior high school in the afternoon. This is not a new idea—St. Peter’s Elementary School has successfully contracted busing service with Forest Lake ISD #831 for more than thirty years. Typically, the younger students sit in front of the bus and the older students sit in the back. It’s been a common practice for so long now that students automatically find their places without any problems. Please note: If you live outside of the ISD #831 boundaries, your family is responsible for transportation.

Q. We submitted an enrollment form. When do you need to know for sure if our child will attend Lakes International Language Academy?

A. We are very pleased that you have shown interest in Lakes International Language Academy and filled out enrollment materials. If your child is selected in the enrollment lottery on January 15, we ask that you finalize your decision immediately afterward. Perhaps you filled out registration materials to hold a slot for your child, even before you were firmly committed, and you’ve changed your mind now. Or maybe you’ve received a promotion or a job transfer. We understand. Just let us know, so that we can accommodate others on our waiting lists and seat them for fall classes.

Q. Does LILA offer all-day, every day kindergarten?

A. Yes, LILA’s Kinder students attend all day, every day with no tuition. We follow the Forest Lake Area School District #831 calendar. Please check your child’s LILA calendar, however, because kindergarten class schedules sometimes vary from the other grades at the beginning of the year.

Q. Do you accept early-entry kindergarten students?

A. We accept early entrants under certain circumstances. For example, an early entrant must pass a readiness test, which is paid for by you. Our early entrance assessment team will make the final decision based on the school’s early entrance policy. We encourage parents to consider our Kinder Prep program for 3- and 4-year-olds as well. Contact us for more information.

Q. What grades does Lakes International Language Academy offer? What happens after 5th grade?

A. LILA welcomes students in grades K-12, with no tuition, at our two campus locations in Forest Lake. We also invite 3- and 4-year-olds to experience the language learning environment at our fee-based Kinder Prep program. After 5th grade, LILA students move to our Upper School, which features the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme for grades 6-10 and the Diploma Programme for grades 11-12.

Q. What kinds of volunteer opportunities do parents have at the school?

A. Volunteer opportunities are many and varied, from helping classroom teachers both in class and behind the scenes, to participating in various school-wide committees and organizations such as the LILA PTO or LILA Foundation. Generally, parents who volunteer in LILA classrooms speak the target language, but there are plenty of opportunities to make a difference here if you speak only English or another language. Please note: In-school volunteers, including field trip chaperones, are required to have a criminal background check on file for a small fee. Take a moment now to submit your criminal background check information here.

Q. Should I join the LILA PTO? Should I join the LILA Foundation?

A. Yes, join us! Joining the PTO gives parents an opportunity to be involved in the school and meet other parents. The PTO provides services that enhance your child’s education. You will enjoy interacting with children, working with other parents, and accomplishing goals that make a difference. The PTO focuses on the daily learning experience for students. The PTO meets on the second Tuesday of every other month. The LILA Foundation welcomes new members interested in helping to build and safeguard the long-term financial health of the school. The group was organized to establish and maintain an endowment to benefit LILA students’ success. The LILA Foundation meets approximately once per month.

Q. Who are language ambassadors?

A. Language ambassadors usually come from Spanish- or Chinese-speaking countries to assist our teachers and introduce students to a truly native voice. These individuals are typically undergraduates, student teachers, and even trained teachers in their own countries. Language ambassadors live with host families and are funded by the PTO. Extend your child’s appreciation of other cultures by hosting a language ambassador at your home or donate to help support the language ambassador program.

Q. Are there Spanish and Mandarin Chinese language camps for kids?

A. Yes, Lakes International Language Academy offers Camp del Sol (Spanish) and Taiyang Xiz Lingying (Madarin Chinese) immersion day camps each summer at our Main Campus in Forest Lake for students going into kindergarten through fifth grades. These partial-day programs are hosted on consecutive days. They provide a wonderful opportunity for new students to ease into language immersion. Attending camp also gives returning students a chance to brush up on their language skills before returning to class.

Q. More questions?
A. Please contact us today!