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Lakeside Middle School 13510 1st Avenue NE Seattle, WA 98125-3099
Lakeside Upper School 14050 1st Avenue NE Seattle, WA 98125-3099

Why trustees said "yes" to online academy

By Connie Ballmer, Board chair

At our fall Board of Trustees retreat, we voted to support an intriguing new project with the potential to put Lakeside at the center of a rapidly emerging educational mode–online learning. Lakeside’s administrators asked for Board approval to explore the creation of the Global Online Academy, and I’d like to share with you why we are excited about this idea.

We were aware of distance learning, often used by adults hoping to better their professional situations, but had not realized its importance in the lives of our kids. It is estimated that there are already more than one million K-12 students enrolled in online learning programs in the U.S. Independent School magazine predicts that “by 2019, about 50 percent of all high school courses will be online.” This is an educational innovation that will be widespread. Lakeside has the opportunity to lead by creating an excellent execution of online learning, or to wait until someone else develops it. The Board supports taking a lead.

In March, Lakeside hosted 15 leading schools from around the world to discuss the founding of an online academy, and we can officially announce that in addition to Lakeside, nine schools have signed on as founding members: Albuquerque Academy, Catlin Gabel School, Cranbrook Schools, The Dalton School, Germantown Friends School, Head-Royce School, King’s Academy, Punahou School, and Sidwell Friends School. The goal is for the academy to offer five initial classes in the fall of 2011 and then to expand the course offerings as the academy grows.

Lakeside continues to lead the process as the academy takes shape. The basic business model for Global Online Academy is that schools pay a membership fee, as well as a fee per student; faculty will be compensated by the academy. The academy has been incorporated in the State of Washington as a not-for-profit 501 (c) (3) institution, and we have begun the process for federal status. The academy director search is underway and the director and operations will be housed at Lakeside School for at least the first few years. Schools are also working to select potential academy teachers and are gathering course proposals. Lakeside’s role in facilitating the creation of this endeavor has been to provide a relatively minimal monetary investment and the time and strategic planning skills of some of our able administrators, faculty, and staff.

When considering the founding of the Global Online Academy, the Board saw clear benefits for individual students, for Lakeside School, and for satisfying a broader public purpose.
  1. While online education will never replace the dynamic of the classroom, it will allow students to take courses that we do not currently offer and learn with students from all over the world. It also will train them to learn in a way that will be required of them in the course of their professional lives.
  2. By leading this effort, Lakeside gains visibility and respect among peer schools and educators around the world. This awareness of Lakeside excellence can boost faculty hiring and retention, as well as college admissions results.
  3. Independent schools have traditionally struggled with how to provide their education models and resources to a wider student population in order to serve a public purpose. While the initial classes will be for students at member schools only, there is potential to share them with a broader community and help narrow the disparity of educational opportunity.
The Board is proud that Lakeside is leading this effort and sharing its vision for educational innovation. Those who have been part of the planning are really energized and excited about online learning, and the fever is contagious. Even I found myself thinking of my online learning options and all the possibilities out there. It’s great to know we’re bringing those possibilities to our students.

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