For offerings, ISD 831 hard to beat

Linda Madsen
Guest Columnist

Even though this school year is not even halfway complete, January and February always mark the time that our school district starts registering students for the upcoming school year.

It seems like a long way off, but the 2013-2014 school year will be here before you know it.

When I was a student in this district, my parents didn’t have the vast amount of choices that families do today. For almost every student back then, you attended whatever school district boundaries you lived in. You started at the local elementary school, then junior high and high school. Unless you attended a private or parochial school, your options were pretty limited.

Today, students and their families in Minnesota have many more options, from attending a different school district than the one in which they reside to choosing charter school, online schooling or even home schooling. Minnesota was a national leader in the charter school movement, and when open-enrollment was passed many years ago we were one of the first states in the nation to allow families free access to virtually any district they wanted to attend.

This created a competitive model for public schools, which in my opinion, has its positive aspects as well as some not-so-good byproducts. But in the end, this is the system we have and for families, much more research is required when choosing schools for their children.

Families who do this research frequently choose our district, and we have been able to successfully compete in this new competitive model because of everything we have to offer in terms of providing a comprehensive education to our students.

Forest Lake Area Schools has always been committed to providing the best for our students – the best teachers, the best core curriculum, and more options for students – both academically and within our activities programs. Because of this commitment, our school district has succeeded in keeping and attracting students to our district.

Here is a list of some of the great things that our districts offers – many of them not offered in our districts or school systems – that have made our district the educational leader of our area:


We offer more Advanced Placement and College in the Schools Classes than almost any other district or school system in the area. These opportunities save families significant money on college tuition.

World Languages

The 2013-2014 school year will be the fourth year of our highly-successful Spanish Immersion program, which has been a choice for many district families and also for students outside of our district. In addition, this year we have added Chinese to our language offerings at both the junior high and senior high levels.


Two years ago, Lino Lakes Elementary School became a Science, Engineering, Technology and Math (STEM) school, concentrating much of its curriculum on these core areas of science, engineering, technology and math.  More and more Minnesota schools are adding elements of STEM curriculum and teaching strategies to their curriculum. Unlike many of our neighboring schools, we have an elementary school that is focusing on these important areas.


More than ever before, today’s industrial technology skill set involves high-level mathematics, engineering skills, computer-based design and the kinds of high-tech practical applications that are in use in the modern manufacturing industry. Forest Lake students get to learn and apply all of these skills. Building trade students get the opportunity to actually build a house. Auto Tech students can apply both their academic and practical skills in a state-wide competition – a competition that Forest Lake students have frequently placed in the top five.  Our students can also participate in a club that builds a high-mileage car which is driven in competition against cars built by student clubs from around the state.  We also have a Robotics Club where students can apply many of the technical skills they have developed during class.


Like industrial tech, our agricultural programs are designed to prepare students for the high demands that this business area requires today and will require into the future. Careers in agriculture in the 21st Century require backgrounds in a broad range of academic disciplines including biology, chemistry, agronomy, ecology and mathematics. Our agriculture programs are also supported by one of the state and nation’s top FFA organizations. Every year, members of the Forest Lake FFA are elected as state and national officers, and the club has won numerous state and national awards.


Student excellence isn’t confined to the classroom walls. Most Forest Lake students have found paths to success in the many sports and activities that our district offers. Our fall, winter and particularly our spring sports teams have a long history of success in regional and state competition. We have produced eight individual state champions in the past five years, not to mention the great success of our softball, baseball, speech, debate, tennis, track and field, wrestling, cross country and Nordic ski teams. Our district also offers one of the most comprehensive music programs of any school district in the area.

Quite honestly, there are many more programs, offerings and activities that I would love to mention but have not simply for lack of unlimited space in a newspaper column. I would like to invite any parents – either in-district or out – to come visit our schools and see for yourself some of the terrific opportunities that are available for students at Forest Lake. You can also visit our website at for information as well.

We invite you to research our school district. I think you will find few school districts that can match our options and opportunities.

Linda Madsen is superintendent of schools in ISD 831.