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New private high school L&E Academy to open in Kirkland this September
Sixteen-year-old Katie Burkett wants to be a mineralogist.
And typical high school events, such as prom or pep assemblies, were never a big deal to her.
Instead, she’s looking forward to “flipped” learning at her new private high school L&E Academy that will allow her to work on individualized projects so she can advance her interest in earth sciences.
“I’ve been through public and home school,” Katie said. “I’m looking forward to being able to build up my education around things I want to do.”
The Kirkland high school L&E Academy, which stands for “Leadership and Entrepreneurial Academy,” will begin on Sept. 3 at Northlake Unitarian Universalist Church and is for kids who haven’t quite found the right fit.
“Maybe they’ve been homeschooled and they’re used to having a lot of say in how they learn and they tried public school and tried the system but it felt really regimented and they want more of a voice,” said founder and Executive Director Maureen O’Shaughnessy. “Maybe students have been frustrated with the pace and they want to go at their own speed, faster or slower.”
A former principal of Kaplan Academy online and Bishop Blanchet High School in Seattle, O’Shaughnessy said she and her colleagues identified a real need for alternative learning as state funding continues to falter. Instead of waiting for charter schools to come about, O’Shaughnessy took matters into her own hands with the help of many educators this past winter.
Now, Katie’s mom and robotics coach Heidi Burkett, who will be the humanities director; former Tech Director at Seattle Academy of Arts and Sciences Vicki Butler, who will be the principal and STEM director; and O’Shaughnessy are preparing to donate their time this first semester to educate five students. They hope to fill the classroom with 10 high schoolers by September.
“The biggest thing we’re doing is flipped curriculums,” O’Shaughnessy said. “Flipped classrooms really puts the students in charge. They come and engage and they’re empowered, and they do a lot more of the leading and we do more facilitating.”
Students will receive a mini-lesson sent online usually in the form of a video where they can pause, rewind and have the opportunity to fully understand what is being said before class time. Then, during class, students and teachers are expected to engage in hands-on activities related to the specific subjects, which include English, social studies, math, science, humanities, STEM - robotics included, leadership and a choice class.
“What they choose for their sixth class, they get to create,” O’Shaughnessy said. “It can be online, it can be hot yoga, they have a say. We just want them to be life-long learners.”
Each student will meet with advisors to create an individualized learning plan with academic, social and physical goals in mind, and a trusted adult will also be involved to ensure the student is supported in his or her goals.
L&E Academy will offer students the opportunity to meet with community leaders and will include a slew of field trips to places such as a Kirkland graphic design company or Lake Washington Institute of Technology.
And on Wednesdays or “leadership day,” members of the Toastmasters Club will help students work on their public speaking skills with an interactive guest speaker in the afternoon. Senior internships, entrepreneurial projects and an emphasis on student passion are also wrapped together at L&E Academy.
“Instead of doing volunteer hours somewhere, it’s about being an entrepreneur and giving back to the local community in something that strikes them, such as human trafficking, ecology or whatever their passion is,” O’Shaughnessy said. “… If we keep lining up with their passion, then hopefully learning will be engaging and not ‘I have to do this.’ Then hopefully they’ll start to learn more about what their skills and gifts are … We want them to really know themselves and go with their strengths.”
For the first year, parents will pay $1,105 in monthly tuition, which is substantially discounted based on the average private school tuition rate - around $1,905, according to O’Shaughnessy. However, depending on L&E Academy’s revenue, scholarships may also be available for students in the future.
“We’re hoping to give as many scholarships this year and into the future just so it’s not limited in terms of socioeconomics,” O’Shaughnessy said, adding laptops will also be provided to students. “We’re really about being inclusive in as many ways as possible and we don’t want finances to be exclusive.”
Class will start at 9 a.m. and end at 3:45 p.m. every weekday and students are expected to bring their own lunch.
Northlake Unitarian Universalist Church is located at 308 Fourth Ave. S in Kirkland.
For more information, visit leacademy.org or call (425) 786-3006.