upper girls

LILA Upper School FAQ

We’re excited to share information here about our Upper School for grades 6-12. And it is a lot of information—you’ll need a few minutes to scroll through all of the FAQs here! We encourage you to contact us, if you have more questions, too. 

IMPORTANT: For grades 6-12, our school day at the Headwaters Campus is 7:47 a.m.-2:15 p.m.
Students typically arrive between 7:25 a.m. and 7:40 a.m. Upper School’s supervised building hours are 7:25 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. Students who are in the building before or after supervised hours must have an appointment with a teacher, be accompanied by their parent/ guardian, be involved in a before- or after-school activity or have special permission.

General Overview And Enrollment Questions

General Overview And Enrollment Questions

Q. Does LILA Upper School welcome Upper School students from any district?
A. Yes. We also accept applications from Wisconsin or other countries, but we ask that you contact us first to confirm enrollment plans. Transfer students to our language immersion program in Lower School, grades K-5, should contact us before applying (see more below).

Q. Does LILA accept transfer students from other immersion schools in grades 1 through 5? What if my elementary student is not attending an immersion school?
A. Yes, we welcome transfers, if we have seats available, especially when the incoming students in grades 1 through 5 have had similar language immersion education experiences elsewhere. Kindergarten and Upper School students may enroll with no world language experience whatsoever.

In a full-immersion elementary school like LILA, a kindergarten class will study in the target language every day, six hours a day, throughout the school year. This continues much the same way, with the exception of English for approximately one hour per day starting in second grade. By the start of 5th grade, for example, students have completed about 5,550 hours of language learning. It is unusual, though not impossible, for a student without a similar language background to transfer into LILA grades 1 through 5 and catch up. 

As a public charter school, our class sizes are limited. If we have no openings, we may place your student on a waiting list.

Please contact our This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to discuss your transfer student’s previous language experience and proficiency, and to ascertain whether or not enrollment in Lakes International is a good educational fit.

Q. Does LILA Upper School welcome students regardless of their second-language skills?
A. Yes, students in LILA Upper School do not need to have previous language experience. Our extensive expertise in teaching languages allows us to provide Mandarin Chinese, Spanish, and French instruction for students in grades 6 - 12 who have partial immersion experiences or no second-language skills at all. LILA Lower School offers Mandarin Chinese and Spanish immersion programs for kindergarten through fifth grades. LILA elementary students in our IB Primary Years Program continue their IB-based learning and their immersion language studies at our Upper School.

Q. I’m new to LILA. Is there tuition for this world-class program?
A. No, there is no tuition for Minnesota residents (tuition is arranged separately for Wisconsin and international students). LILA is an award-winning public charter school and operates as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. We accept students regardless of academic or athletic standing, race, or religion, just as all public schools do; however, because we are a charter school we can limit class sizes. LILA is an equal-opportunity employer and educator authorized by Volunteers of America of MN.

Q. Does LILA have food service options?
A. Yes. We contract with Forest Lake School District for nutritious, balanced meal service. We also use the PayPam online service for payment. 

Q. Does LILA Upper School have language ambassadors?
A. Typically, the language ambassadors are assigned to the Lower School classrooms, but they may assist on occasion at the Upper School. You'll definitely hear Spanish and Chinese native speakers in the hallways and classrooms every day at the Headwaters Campus, since our many of our staff members are from other countries.

Q. What is the average class size at LILA Upper School?
A. Our budget is based on an average class size of 24. The actual size of classes varies and in some years our class-size average has been 21.

Q. Is there sibling enrollment preference for LILA Upper School?
A. Yes. Minnesota charter school law allows a student with a sibling currently enrolled in another grade at LILA or a parent who is a teacher here to receive preferential enrollment. You must apply, even if you have sibling or teacher enrollment preference.

Q. Is there enrollment preference for a student who attends or previously attended LILA?
A. If a student is currently enrolled at LILA Lower School, he or she will automatically be enrolled in LILA Upper School. Unfortunately, the law does NOT allow us to provide preferential enrollment for previous LILA students who have left the school and now want to return. You must apply, if your student is not currently enrolled at LILA.

Q. If my fifth-grade student currently attends LILA, do I need to submit an application for middle school?
A. No, you do NOT need to submit an application, if your student is currently enrolled at LILA.

Q. If my eighth-grade student currently attends LILA, do I need to submit an application for high school? 
A. No, you do NOT need to submit an application, if your student is currently enrolled at LILA.

Q. If my student does NOT currently attend LILA, do I need to submit an application?
A. Yes. You must applyif your student is NOT currently a LILA student.

Q. If my student does NOT currently attend LILA, but has a sibling who attends LILA, do I need to submit an application?
A. Yes. You must apply, if your student is NOT currently a LILA student, even if he or she has a sibling attending here now.

Q. What if I already enrolled my student at another school for middle school or junior/senior high school? Can I “un-enroll” or transfer?
A. Yes, you can still choose LILA, even if your child previously enrolled at another school earlier this year. We simply request your student’s records from the current school, and that school sends the documents to us. (It’s common practice.) As a courtesy, you should let the other school know of your intention.

Q. Is busing available?
A. Yes, if you live within the Forest Lake Area School District. You will need to complete a bus form, which is part of your enrollment checklist.

Q. Can Upper School students use personal technology devices, such as smartphones and tablets?
A. Yes, because that’s the real world and THEIR world. We ask that students use their phones only during passing time and lunch. LILA asks that students in grades 6-12 bring a laptop, Chromebook, or Tablet with a keyboard.

Q. What technology do students in grades 6-12 use?
LILA asks that students in grades 6-12 bring a laptop, Chromebook, or Tablet with a keyboard. Please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.with technology questions.

Q. Can I apply now?
A. Yes! Please apply as soon as the updated form is available. We encourage you to complete your application before January 14.

IB MYP/DP And Other Curriculum Questions

International Baccalaureate And Other Curriculum Questions

Q. What is the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme? 
A. The IB philosophy that is integral to the LILA learning experience shifts from the Primary Years Programme (PYP) in PreK-Grade 5 and moves to the Middle Years Programme (MYP) for grades 6-10. LILA received our MYP Authorization in the Summer of 2018. 

MYP emphasizes applied learning as well as theoretical studies with at least 50 hours of study annually in each of eight subject groups:

  • Language acquisition
  • Language and literature (English Language Arts)
  • Individuals and societies (Social Studies)
  • Sciences
  • Mathematics
  • Arts (Dance, Drama, Music, Visual Arts)
  • Physical and health education
  • Design (Technology-infused applied principles)

Q. What are LILA's grading and assessment procedures for Upper School? 
A. The official grade for the course is determined and reported at the end of the school year. IB uses rubrics to communicate student’s achievement of the criteria on assessments. All rubrics are on a 0-8 international scale. These are converted quarterly to a (1-7) scale. We use our online grade book, Infinite Campus, to report on the IB achievement levels and to report progress grades and the final grade at the end of the school year. For more information, see our Assessment Guide

Q. What are the guiding IB Policies that are implemented at Upper School?
A. We have developed in accordance with IB guidelines the following policies: Assessment, Special Needs/Inclusion, Academic Honesty, and Language.

Q. What is “Design” in the IB MYP?
A. Design is focused on using technology with practical and creative thinking skills to effectively solve design problems. Solutions can be models, prototypes, products, or systems. It merges theory and application. We use a 3D printer as part of the curriculum, for example.

Q. Does LILA offer electives at the Upper School?
A. Yes. We call them “choices,” because they’re so much more than “electives.” For each of the 8 MYP subject groups, LILA Upper School offers choices for students to tailor their studies. For example, we offer at least three choices for the musical arts, such as choir, band, or orchestra. Throughout their middle-school and high-school years at LILA, students will have opportunities to sample many exciting intercurriculuar and applied learning experiences.

Q. Does band, orchestra, or choir at the Upper School have an additional fee?
A. No, because it is part of our Arts curriculum. 

Q. Besides courses in the 8 subject groups, what else does MYP require?
A. MYP requires one collaborative project that combines learning from two subject groups and one long-term inquiry project. Community service is also required.

Q. What does it mean to be an International Baccalaureate MYP or DP School?
A. Lakes International Language Academy chose to align with the International Baccalaureate curriculum from the start—we’re not a “traditional” public school trying to switch over to IB. We hire only teachers interested in IB and promote IB principles through training, curriculum development, and other programming. LILA achieved our IB Primary Years Programme (PYP) accreditation in just five years after we opened in 2004. We have also received IB's authorization for offering MYP and DP, thanks to the LILA board of directors and staff who were so committed to completing the intensive process as soon as possible.

Q. Upper School has no recess, but don’t you think students should get some opportunity for fresh air?
A. We most certainly agree! Fresh air, exercise, and social time are critical. LILA Upper School students can eat outside, weather permitting. They also have access to age-appropriate sports and game equipment for their lunch break.

Q. Do colleges and universities accept the IB Diploma Programme?
A. Yes, but just like Advanced Placement (AP) courses, College in the Schools (CIS) classes, or Post-Secondary Enrollment Option (PSEO) credits, the renowned IB Diploma Programme is accepted at colleges and universities across the country at each institution’s discretion. No program is accepted universally.

Q. What is “I-term” at LILA Upper School?
A. LILA, known for its innovative approaches, has created a unique scheduling system that incorporates a multi-day “I-term,” which stands for intensive, independent, interesting, innovative, and in-depth instruction. The I-term options will change from year to year, depending on staff and student interest, but each one will provide all-day, every-day experiential learning. 

Q. Can you tell me more about how the I-term works?
A. Yes! I-term features special classes, designed by teachers around an interest they want to share with students. I-term classes are held all day, every day for consecutive days. I-term is not optional courses (they are not vacation days and students can’t skip them). We’ll place students according to their first, second, and third choices.

Q. Can a student from an elementary school language immersion program, such as LILA’s, learn an additional language and still take immersion courses in the first target language?
A. Yes. In addition to immersion courses, we also offer language programs in Spanish, Mandarin, or French for students who have limited or no second-language skills. So, a Spanish-immersion student might take two courses in Spanish, and also take a Mandarin course. Then there are the I-terms, which often have some interesting language-learning opportunities, too!

Q. Can students pursue a program in a language other than Spanish, French, or Mandarin?
A. Adding an independent student language isn’t out of the question, but we are focused on these three languages right now to ensure we have qualified staff prepared to guide and assess students’ language acquisition.

Q. Does LILA support Postsecondary Enrollment Options (PSEO)?
A. We are committed to providing the best education possible for each student. Some students may benefit most from PSEO, a program that allows 10th-, 11th- and 12th-grade students to earn both high school and college credit while still in high school, through enrollment in and successful completion of college nonsectarian courses at eligible participating postsecondary institutions.

  • Most PSEO courses are offered on the campus of the postsecondary institution; some courses are offered online. Each participating college or university sets its own requirements for enrollment into the PSEO courses.
  • 11th- and 12th-grade students may take PSEO courses on a full- or part-time basis; 10th-graders may take one career/technical PSEO course. If 10th graders taking a CTE PSEO course earn at least a grade C in that class, they may take additional CTE PSEO courses.
  • Students must meet the PSEO residency and eligibility requirements and abide by participation limits specified in Minnesota Statutes, section 124D.09.

By March 1 of each year, you can expect up-to-date information on our website, and in materials that are distributed to parents and students, about PSEO programs and our grade-weighting policy (Minnesota Statutes, section 124D.09, subdivision 7). There is no charge to PSEO students for tuition, books or fees for items that are required to participate in a course. Enrolling in a PSEO course does not prohibit a student from participating in activities sponsored by LILA, and students have reasonable access to the building, computers, and technology resources during regular school hours. Funds are available to help pay transportation expenses for qualifying students to participate in PSEO courses on college campuses. To assist us in planning, we ask that students inform us by May 30 of each year of their intent to enroll in postsecondary courses during the following school year. Students are bound by notifying or not notifying the district by May 30, according to MN statues. We recommend checking the Minnesota Department of Education PSEO website for more information, including the PSEO Reference Guide.

Q. Which classes are taught in English?
A. All classes except language acquisition courses are available to students in English, including those in the subject areas of English, Sciences, Individuals & Societies, Design, Mathematics, and Arts. Elementary immersion graduates and other proficient language users may choose to 2 of their content courses in their target language.

Q. My child isn't a high academic achiever. Will LILA be too challenging?
A. LILA has always focused on providing a rigorous, challenging, and engaging learning environment for all students. We believe every child holds amazing potential—this is a place where everyone can become a successful learner. We also know that children need to understand that it’s okay when projects fail or work needs revision. "Failure is success in progress," Albert Einstein once said. At LILA, this is a safe, caring, and supportive school for academic achievement at all levels.

Q. Is the learning format based on lectures and tests?
A. No. LILA does not "teach to the test." We're focused on the whole person—intellectual, social, emotional, and physical development. We strive for balance, one of the IB attributes. The IB model allows us to expand our approach to emphasize applied, hands-on learning in creative and interesting ways. Will we launch rockets? Sure! We'll see our lessons in action, where the most effective learning happens.

Q. The Learner Profile at LILA Lower School has a wonderful, positive impact on students. What happens to those attributes and attitudes moving to Upper School?
A. The Learner Profile continues at LILA Upper School with the same attributes and attitudes. We encourage strong character development as part of our attention to the “whole child.” LILA does not teach to a test. We’re about guiding young people toward their greatest potential as individuals, as learners, and as global citizens.

Q. Does LILA offer advanced courses?
A. Yes. Our curriculum development team has worked to offer accelerated courses in mathematics and English. We fully appreciate the need to offer differentiated instruction for our learners at every level.

Q. How does LILA determine placement for advanced math, English, or world languages?
A. We looked at proficiency testing, especially for world languages; however, other schools that have implemented proficiency exams found the results rarely deviated from existing test scores. So, after further consideration, our plan is to review each student’s MCA and/or other test results and teacher placement recommendations. Any placement questions will be resolved on a case-by-case basis. It’s a more personalized approach than multiple-choice testing, and that fits better with our school’s philosophy and learning culture.

Q. Does LILA offer special education services?
A. Yes. As a public school built on inclusivity, we welcome all learners. We work with parents to establish plans for your child’s academic success.

Q. Do you have tutors?
A. Yes, several LILA teachers and other educational staff members offer tutoring services outside of school hours. They are professionals with training, experience, background checks, and proven interest in student growth. Like other professionals, they must charge for their services, usually between $30 and $50 per hour. This is on par (or less) than the market rate. Please contact us about this year’s tutors.

Q. Can I apply now?
A. Yes! Please apply as soon as the new form is available for the forthcoming school year! We encourage you to apply before Jan. 15; however, we will continue to accept applications on a rolling basis until our capacity is reached. 

Questions About The LILA Learning Experience, Including Sports And Extracurricular Activities

Questions About The LILA Learning Experience, Including Sports And Extracurricular Activities

Q. When are students from LILA’s immersion program mixing with other students?
A. In addition to lunch, advisory, and passing time, students of various language backgrounds mix in English courses, language courses, health, physical education, and other courses.

Q. Does LILA Upper School feel like a traditional junior high or high school?
A. Yes, in some ways. Students move from classroom to classroom, and they have lockers to store their gear. They have sports and activities, too.

Q. Upper School learners are full of hormones and other mischievous things. What does classroom management look like for adolescent students?
A. In our Lower School, we train our staff using the Responsive Classroom approach. Shifting to Upper School, we believe the Developmental Designs practices fit our school’s philosophy and mission well. These practices are based on the same principles as Responsive Classroom but “grow up” to the adolescent years. They build skills and engagement in three key areas of school life:
1)    Social-emotional

2)    Relationship and community

3)    Academic

The program uses goal-setting, social contract, modeling, and pathways to self-control to help guide students back on track. Learn more at http://www.originsonline.org/developmental-designs.

Q. What extracurricular and sports activities does LILA Upper School offer?
A. LILA has implemented a core of sports and extracurricular activities. What we offer depends on student interest. Please see the Athletics & Activities section of our website for more information.

Q. Can LILA Upper School students play sports with other schools, such as Forest Lake District 831?
A. LILA Upper School is committed to providing our own athletic and activity teams. We see this as a necessary part of creating a well-rounded school and well-rounded students. However, if our grades 7 and 8 do not have the student numbers to form some athletic or activity teams, it's possible that Forest Lake District 831 coaches will allow LILA students in grades 7 and 8 to participate with their teams in some junior high athletics if there is room on the team. LILA students will not be able to participate with Forest Lake District 831 teams involved in Minnesota High School League sports, some of which are sanctioned for grades 7-12 and others are for grades 9-12. 

What Else Should I Know?

What Else Should I Know?

Q. Why do you say "LILA Lower School" for grades K-5 and "LILA Upper School" for grades 6-12?
A. This terminology is common among international schools around the world. For LILA, it establishes solidarity: we are one LILA school with two programs; the names help distinguish the two programs without having to specifically say the grade levels each time. It's also nomenclature that's easy to remember.
• LILA Lower School, Gr K-5, is an accredited IB Primary Years Programme (PYP) with full immersion instruction in Spanish or Mandarin Chinese. Grades K-5 are housed at the Main Campus (246 11th Ave. S.E., Forest Lake, MN).
• LILA Upper School, Gr 6-12, has been authorized for the IB Middle Years Programme (grades 6-10) and the IB Diploma Programme (grades 11-12). We offer multiple language-learning choices: full immersion for continuing Spanish/Mandarin learners or fast-track language learning (Spanish, Mandarin, or French) for students new to a second language; or a combination of immersion and fast-track choices. Grades 6-12 are housed at the Headwaters Campus (19850 Fenway Ave. N., Forest Lake, MN).

Q. Why did LILA start an Upper School in 2015?
A. Several years ago, LILA and Forest Lake Area Schools District 831 developed an innovative partnership approach for a language continuation program at Southwest Junior High School and Forest Lake Senior High School. At the urging of LILA parents and staff, we encouraged District 831 to pursue the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme (IB MYP). The signs were positive and SWJH began the accreditation process. Then the district informed us in December 2014 that it would not be able to pursue IB MYP at that time. Because the IB program is fundamental to LILA and part of LILA’s board-approved strategic plan, our board of directors and school community made the decision to expand grades and move forward with an IB-based curriculum for grades 6-8 in 2015, with grades 9-12 following in 2016.

Q. Our family is moving to Forest Lake and we plan to attend LILA. What should we know about our new hometown?
A. You’ve made a great choice for a growing community! You’ll find an excellent public library, recreational trail, and lakefront park for swimming and picnics (watch for Arts in the Park on Tuesdays during the summer for a busy farmers’ market and live music!). The YMCA opened in July 2016 near the LILA Headwaters campus, too.

To help you with your move, please contact us with your child’s previous school information after your enrollment at LILA has been accepted. We will request the transcript and other documents for you.

LILA is a member of the Forest Lake Area Chamber of Commerce and the White Bear Lake Area Chamber of Commerce. We’re happy to connect you to the businesses and resources available through those organizations.

Q. How can I learn more?
A. We’re excited to offer students and their families a world-class educational option in the Forest Lake area, rich in academic rigor, character development, and global focus. The information posted here is likely to change and grow as we fine-tune our plans. Parents and students are invited to contact us for a tour of the Headwaters Campus, 19850 Fenway Ave. N., in Forest Lake.

Register for the sessions online or apply to attend LILA.

Q. How do I apply?
A. It takes less than five minutes! Complete the application online. We will be confirming students after the January 15 lottery and continue to confirm enrollment until our capacity has been reached.