Category Archives: School News

NLA Aims to Eliminate Cafeteria Waste from Trays, Utensils

By Gavin Maki-Jones

Each year, North Lakes Academy spends thousands of dollars on styrofoam trays and plastic utensils. The school is now applying for a grant through Washington County to eliminate all of that waste by installing dishwashers.  

The waste has been an environmental and financial problem for a long time.  

“We use approximately 24,780 trays at the Upper School per year and 30,975 at K-6,” said Chelsie Thielen, NLA’s environmental education coordinator. 

“Having each person use one tray, a fork, and/or spoon each time they eat lunch adds up quickly: the school spends around $7750 each year on single-use trays and utensils”, Thielen said. 

There’s also the cost of garbage collection.  

“We pay per garbage pickup,” Thielen said. “If we’re throwing away less, we have fewer pickups, so we pay less.” 

There is also the environmental component – putting so much styrofoam and plastic in the trash is not good for the environment, and NLA has an obligation to its authorizer, Osprey Wilds, to reduce waste.

“Osprey WIlds decides whether we get to continue to be a school, and it doesn’t like how much trash we are currently generating.  We need to be better about how we use our resources,” Thielen said.

While there are options like compostable trays, the best solution would be installing a dishwasher. NLA is working with a non-profit called Biz Recycling to write a grant for dishwashers, as well as reusable trays and cutlery, and the cost of installation.  If this goes through, NLA will receive somewhere between $20,000 and $30,000.  

Dishwashers would mean some changes for staff and students.

 “It will give me more work to do,” said Patty Jelinek, the 7-12 lunch coordinator. “To start, I will need to order cleaning supplies for the new dishwasher.” Jelinek will also need to attend to the kitchen more due to having to wash, dry, and store the dishes.

Student opinions are mixed. The majority are in favor of the reusable ones. Some say that the reusable trays are less sanitary; others say they are easier to eat off of. In the end, the majority said that the trays are better for the environment and the students.

 The next step is to improve the district’s recycling program.

“Garbage is taxed heavier than recycling or composting in our county, so we’d likely save a few thousand more by implementing better recycling programs to make sure that all recyclable material makes it into recycling and not the trash,” Thielen said.  “That’s our next project.”

Here Comes the K-3 Musical!

By Lily Lachmiller

North Lakes Academy elementary students will perform their first-ever musical this spring. The play is Ba da Bing! It’s Spring! by Teresa Jennings and features grades K-3. It is directed by Abigail Conzett, the school’s music teacher.

“[It] tells the story of children (played by our third graders) who are tired of waiting for the flowers (played by our kindergarten and 1st graders) to pop up after the long winter. The dandelions (played by our second graders) are disliked for being weeds, but end up discovering how to get the flowers to bloom and save spring.”

While this will be the first musical NLA Elementary has ever done, it is not the first time that Conzett will be directing it. She produced the musical at the first school she worked at, and she is looking forward to seeing new students on the stage.

So far the rehearsals are going great. The kids have already learned three out of the five songs they need to know. The next step is to assign speaking parts to interested students.

“I love this musical, and I think it is a great introduction into musical theater for young singers. It is fun, silly, and, so far, they have all been rock stars in learning everything. I look forward to seeing how they progress and the great show they’ll deliver,” Conzett said.

Conzett is no stranger to the world of musicals.

“When I was in high school I participated in every spring musical our drama department put on and absolutely loved it,” she said.

If you would like to come support NLA Elementary, come to see Ba da Bing! It’s Spring on May 9th in the elementary gym. Time is currently to be determined; The Husky Press will update this information as soon as it is available.

7-8 Teachers Acclimating Well After Move to Upper School

By Dustin Jensen

In January, North Lakes Academy went through a major change: it moved grades 7 and 8 to the Upper School building as part of a greater effort to bring the NLA community closer together. This was a major adjustment for students, but it was also a major adjustment for the 7-8 teachers – Forrest Florczak, Marcia Graetz, Dan Mendenhall, Lynda Nelson-Williams, Jeff Rapp, and Emily Thompson – had to pack up their classrooms and move across 35 as well.

According to most teachers, the transition went well.

“It went very smoothly,” said Thompson, who also added high school courses to her schedule in addition to the move; she now teaches 7-12 Spanish.

“It was mostly seamless,” Mendenhall said.

Multiple teachers went on to show appreciation for parents, staff, and others who helped.

“Staff and students have been supportive and welcoming,” Graetz said. “It was so helpful to have everyone help with the move too.”

All of the teachers felt that the best part about being at the Upper School was seeing former students.

“It’s good to reconnect with former students and interact with students I didn’t have in 7th and 8th grade,” Mendenhall said.

Graetz appreciates the Upper School culture.

“The culture is very inclusive and the students work very hard and are determined to be amazing adults,” she said.

When asking what the hardest part of the transition has been, most teachers agreed that “Creating a new routine” as Mr Florsak put it, has been one of the biggest struggles. 

As for their students, all of the teachers say that the middle school students are doing amazingly.

“[They] are thriving!” Graetz said.

There were understandably some parental concerns about bringing younger students over to what was, at the time, a high school-only environment. When asked what possible closure they could give to the parents who had concerns about the transition, Mendenhall comments, “I would encourage them to talk with their student(s) to get their perspective.  I haven’t heard anything but positive comments from the students.”

This is comforting, especially matched with Thompson’s response:

“I truly believe this was the best move.”

As with every big change, there is room for improvement. Most teachers agreed fine-tuning the schedule would be the best (and this is in the works for the 2024-25 school year). Graetz added that the school should focus on building career-focused opportunities for students

“[We should be] building community and business relationships and job training connections for students so they can better plan for becoming amazing working adults.”

Finally when asked what they are looking forward to for this school, all of the teachers commented on being excited to see the growth of the school and culture.

“I believe that moving to the elementary and secondary building model was a good move for our school. If we look around, we see that this is the most common model for charter schools. Now that we are settling in, I can see why. The Upper School students bring excitement and maturity, and the Middle School students get a glimpse of their future here at NLA. I can’t wait to see how this continues to impact us all!” Thompson said.

Annual Cookie Sale Underway for NLA’s Girl Scouts

By Mae San Nicolas

March 18, 2024

Forest Lake, Minn. – Girl Scout Cookie Season has started in full force across the United States, with beloved flavors such as Thin Mints & Samoas making a return in 2024. 

For starters, not much has changed since last year, except the cost. Cookies have gone up in price by one dollar – your box of Thin Mints will run you $6 instead of $5. Shrinkflation has not come to the boxes, fortunately enough— the packages still contain the same amount of cookies as they did in the past, with the same great flavor. 

There are many places to find cookies. For starters, check outside your local stores for the trademark pop-up booths. You can find them outside any business; the Girl Scouts just have to ask if they can set up shop out front. The Forest Lake Wal-Mart is an excellent place to look. Another good place to buy cookies is from a specific Girl Scout you would like to support, such as a niece or sister; a new QR code system has been implemented where you can purchase directly from the individual by scanning. 

The sales of cookies fund multiple opportunities that give back to the community. Cookie sales provide Scouts with funding for field trips and trips to provide community service, like going to Feed My Starving Children. 

Unfortunately, cookie sales have been slow this year. According to Kassy Sjobolm (11) who has been a member of the Girl Scouts since kindergarten, she has only sold around 500 boxes as of right now. Compared to the past years, in which she has regularly sold 1000 boxes every season, this is a massive decrease in sales.

The sale runs through March 24th, so if you are craving a box of cookies some time this week and would like to support a fellow student at the same time, order cookies directly from Sjoblom using the QR code below.

Annual 11-12 Osprey Wilds Trip a Success

By Zechariah San Nicolas and Dylan Schultz

March 18, 2024

Forest Lake, Minn. – Last November, NLA’s juniors and seniors, as well as NLA teachers Allison Tucker, Chelsie Thielen, Amanda Fredlund, and Halie Weaving, all went on a trip to Osprey Wilds Environmental Learning Center in Sandstone, Minnesota. While there, they participated in many activities like creating makeshift outdoor shelters, playing Predator vs Prey, doing archery and many other cool activities. The weather was damp and chilly (as it is in Minnesota during November), but it was fine for those who dressed for the occasion.

The Osprey Wilds organization is an authorizer of many charter schools across the state of Minnesota; North Lakes Academy is one of them. 

“One of our missions is to teach the youth about the environment, and the Osprey trip is one way that we do that,” said Thielen, who is the school’s Environmental Education Coordinator.  This was achieved by playing fun games like Predator vs Prey, which taught students about food chains, or being taught about the importance of green energy. The students spent time in contact with nature, eating s’mores, going on night hikes, and even building forest forts. The creativity of the students was on full display for that activity. 

“[Some kids] built an entire gazebo between the trees, others put up a rope swing,” Thielen said.  

Despite being in the woods, the trip doesn’t involve any camping.  Students stay in dorms with bunk beds and their own bathroom. They ate locally grown and homemade food, which was reportedly pretty yummy.

The trip was a great way to understand the environment (and how to protect it), while still having fun and giving students the freedom and fun that they deserve.  A wonderful time was had and this year’s juniors are looking forward to their senior trip.

The Osprey Wilds Environmental Learning Center is located on Grindstone Lake in Pine County, Minnesota.  You don’t have to be on a school trip to visit; it is open to the public,and they have several community events a year, including the upcoming Maple Sugar Day on Saturday, March 23, where participants tap maple trees and learn how syrup is made. To find out more, visit

What is the NLA School Board?

By Ryan Yang

Forest Lake, Minn. – Many people have heard of the NLA School Board, but not everyone knows what it does.  The NLA School Board is a group of parents, teachers, community members, and administrators who manage the finances and make policies for the school. 

The board has four cabinet positions; these are leadership roles within the board, according to Board Chair Doug Hine. The four cabinet positions are Chair, Vice Chair, Secretary, and Treasurer. The chair leads the meetings and sets the plan. The vice chair assists the chair in their role. The secretary sends the plan to the public and takes notes that they send to the public. The treasurer looks over the budget and manages it.

There are different kinds of seats on the Board, and these can only be filled by certain people.  The parent seats are held by Doug Hine, Anna Hassmann, and Emma Fisher. The community seat is held by Chris Dale. Teacher seats are held by Jeff Rapp, Allison Tucker, Laura Delvillar, and Mitch Houle.  Cecelia Dodge, the school’s Executive Director, also sits on the Board as a non-voting member.

Board Meetings are open to the public; they can be attended by everyone.  The group meets on the third Monday of every month at the NLA Upper School in Room 203.

NHS Family Dodgeball Tournament in the Works

By Jadyn Cotten

March 14, 2024

Forest Lake, Minn. – The NLA chapter of the National Honor Society plans to have a family dodgeball tournament on Saturday, May 4th. The cost is $25 per person/team, and each team can have up to 10 players. 

Fifty percent of the dodgeball profits go to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), a global organization that works to promote policies and expand access to services that protect all children, according to the UNICEF website. 

There will also be concessions and a bake sale during the tournament, according to Allison Tucker, NLA social studies teacher and the NHS faculty advisor. 
The location and time of this tournament are still to be determined; The Husky Press will provide an update when that information becomes available.