Does my child need to be gifted to enroll?
We have students who are advanced and motivated. Few have been formally assessed as gifted. We ask families as a whole to support students who are willing to apply themselves to a strongly academic program. We know that students are very rarely gifted or even advanced in most subjects. Our mission is to help your child develop to his or her capabilities in each subject, from any base at which he or she enters.
Does my child need to be tested?
No, we do not require testing. However, if your child has been tested, has an IEP (Individual Education Plan), or both, we do ask for those records. This can help us plan how our teachers can best help your child. We do require transcripts if your child has been in school before coming to the LCA.
What if my child has been in public school and is behind in one or more subjects?
This is quite common, and is often one of the reasons that parents wish to enroll their child in the LCA. Still, the child and the parents may worry that the child will fall behind in our strong academic program. We assure you that a child with basic talent, undeveloped though it may be, can progress well in our environment. Our students are placed individually at appropriate levels in each subject. As an example of progress, a student came into 4th grade reading at 3rd-grade level; with a program of reading interesting books, he advanced to 5th-grade level within a semester.
What academic levels do you offer?
We offer early kindergarten through 8th grade currently. Early kindergarten is full-day, a truly academic program, not day care. Students are grouped by ability, not age. While most students have an age group, such as grades 1-2, grades 3-4 or grades 3-5 (variously by subject), and grades 6-8, students regularly go to advanced groups in various subjects. A first-grader who’s had Chinese in kindergarten may go to intermediate Chinese, while an older student who’s never had Chinese goes to beginning Chinese. A number of students are advanced in math, while in all math classes students work at their individual level with the help of our teacher. Our scheduling to accommodate the diversity of students’ levels in all subjects is extremely complex, but we do it because it’s worth it for our students; at times we have used advanced math, simulated annealing, to do this!
Do you have age cutoffs in classes? How are students grouped by age?
First, we have no birthday cutoffs. We accept students in early kindergarten at age 4, which they need not have reached by the first day of school. We make judgments on an individual basis. Second, students progress from their levels of ability, not their age; rather than a lockstep education, we help each student thrive in each subject at his or her pace. Each student has a grade level, such as 4th grade, which is usually based on age, but it is only nominal. We have students in grades above their nominal age, but we believe that students grow best socially and emotionally when with others fairly close in age.
Are you a charter school?
No, we are a fully independent non-profit private school. Charter schools are part of the public school system, under separate state funding, and they must follow all the restrictive regulations. Our teachers have complete academic freedom, not bound by state mandates on what’s taught, when, and how. We do not do PARCC testing. We do not teach to the test in any subject, though world-leading Singapore math has very good unit tests on skills and concepts . While this leaves us without state and federal funding, our freedom is worth it for your child and for our teachers.
Are you accredited?
We have chosen to pursue accreditation with the top accrediting agency for the region, the Independent Schools Association of the Southwest, ISAS. This is a 3- to 4-year process, which a school can only being after financially stable operations for a number of years. We have to meet 123 different criteria. Our board and our teachers have a lot of work ahead of them. We are confident that we’ll achieve this. We note also that accreditation has never been needed for our past students to enter any school of their choice. Accreditation is for us, foremost, an assurance that we are following best practices in both education and operations.
Are your teachers certified?
Our teachers are chosen for their expertise and their passion for teaching. Some have public-school certification, while others have advanced education and have demonstrated their teaching ability within the LCA. Our Head of School and our Board Chair, both part-time teachers, hold PhDs in hard sciences; other teachers have advanced degrees in such fields as creative writing.
Do you do standardized testing?
We do not do PARCC testing. We do not teach to the test, nor do we take the weeks for such teaching to the test. We do a single standardized test once a year, currently the Iowa Assessments, to judge our progess with the students. The results are used to evaluate us, not the individual student; this is the fair and useful way to use tests. We do share the results for individual students with their parents or guardians.
How is my child’s progress assessed and reported?
We’re happy to show you a suitably anonymized report card. It’s a comprehensive narrative. You’ll see what a student learns, not a number or a letter. Report cards come out four times each year. Our teachers know each student very well and have their own good assessment methods. Some are fairly direct, as in the level of Singapore math that a student has passed. In other subjects the assessment varies.
What enrichment activities can my child participate in?
Our classes, themselves, incorporate enrichment beyond the standard subject matter as taught in most schools. We introduce world cultures from over 40 nations, and we follow up on student interests. Our students experience a wide variety of field trips (again, with lifting of COVID-19 restrictions). They can participate in student clubs after school – currently theater, engineering, and math. Please look at our News and Events page.
Do you have school sports?
We have tennis as a weekly class year-round, for five groups by age and ability. In our twice-a-week PE classes for each age group, students learn elements of many sports – variously basketball, volleyball, soccer, and others. We note that all students are eligible to participate in sports (and band) in the public schools by their own choice, though this may change with budget cuts in the public schools.
What is your school calendar?
We follow the traditional public school calendar; our families and our administration chose not to follow the unusual “balanced” schedule that the local public schools adopted for the 2022-24 academic years. That said, we have many more days of teaching, a full 180 days. We do not take 9 teacher development days, nor test-preparation days, nor several holidays that we use instead as teachable moments. Our calendar is for the standard 9-month school year; we close in the summer. It is posted on our website in scrolling form.
What are the hours of class time?
Classes begin at 8:30 AM. They end at 4:10 PM for students in grades 3 and above, and at 3:35 PM for students in kindergarten through 2nd grade. We adapted our schedule for COVID restrictions, while we remained in in-person education except for a few weeks mandated as distance education in 2020 We take all proper COVID precautions. Non-class times are 9:40-10:00 AM as recess and snack, 11:45-12:30 as recess and lunch, and 2:50-3:10 PM as snack.
Why are there so many breaks in the school day?
Anyone who has sat through a long talk can tell you that they would have been able to pay more attention if they had been able to take breaks that allowed activity during the talk. In support of our decision to provide frequent breaks is the example of the schools of Finland (which is currently considered the most successful school system in the world). They give their students frequent periods of activity during school. Physical activity has been shown to be essential for good mental health.
When can my child be dropped off and picked up?
He or she can arrive as early as 8:00 AM and can stay as late as 4:30 PM.
Are you affiliated with a religious group or other organization?
No, we are independent of all such groups. We have students of all religions and of no religion. We do not discriminate on the basis of religion, not only because it is legally required of us as a 501(c)(3) public charity, but because it is right and it is effective. Students do learn about each others’ religious and cultural backgrounds, both informally and as we share some holiday celebrations.
Why did you start the school?
In essence, founder Dr. Lou Ellen Kay looked over her long career in teaching and research, asking herself what would be the best thing she could do with the rest of her life. Her answer was, Educating talented and motivated children to become wise and compassionate leaders who can deal with the great environmental and social problems that we face. A longer story is on our About page on this website.
What are tuition and fees?
As a private school receiving no state or federal funding, we rely on tuition to cover most of our expenses, the rest being made up by donations from diverse sources. Current tuition rates are on our website. For the 2022-23 school year, the full-time tuition is $9120. We have some partial scholarships, which are need-based. We have no other fees; we supply books, as in Singapore math. We have 3 payment plans, 11 months, full semester, and full year. We do ask for participation in our Annual Fund at a significant but affordable amount, to help us gain other donors.
Is there an application fee, and is it annual?
There is a nominal application fee of $50, well below all other private schools, and it is only paid the first year. We do not charge a fee each year. We evaluate student progress and then decide to re-invite students for the coming year.
Speaking of the school as a whole, why are you a non-profit?
We have two big reasons. First, we put funds to work benefiting the students, not siphoning off profits to pay shareholders. There are no owners of a non-profit corporation, only operators. Of course, non-profits can run a surplus of income over expenses; we use donations, not tuition, to build up funding for accreditation expenses (estimated as $27K) and capital funding for eventually (2025?) purchasing our building. Second, donations to us are tax-deductible, within very broad limits. Donors see more benefit per dollar in what they are helping to build.
How is the LCA funded?
Start-up funding was provided by school founder Dr. Lou Ellen Kay, using the inheritance from her mother, Grace Kay. In our current operations, about 92% of operating costs come from tuition. Donations and some grants cover the remainder, on average, with small shortfalls or gains in different years. Donations are tax-deductible because we are a public educational charity under section 501(c)(3) of the IRS code. At present (2007-2022), our Head of School and our Board Chair work full-time as unpaid volunteers. We will develop an all-paid staff for stability as enrollment grows to provide increased funding .
Health & Safety
Do you have a nurse or other medically trained person in attendance?
No, we are a small school with very careful budgeting. A number of our staff have CPR training. We take care of minor ailments and injuries with basic first aid. We can dispense non-prescription medicines and take charge of epi-pens. Our policy handbook gives more detail. The Mesilla fire and police departments are very close and respond within minutes, as we have found during a few false alarms.
What are your policies on illnesses, immunizations, and required medical information?
Students in the LCA, as in all schools, have episodes of infectious disease or GI upsets. We keep complete records of parent/guardian contacts and physician contacts so that we can deal with these episodes. We also keep records of chronic conditions and food allergies. Our policy handbook gives more details; for example, a student who has had a fever must be fever-free for 24 hours before attending again, to reduce the spread of diseases. The state requires that we keep complete records of your child’s immunizations. We fully support universal immunization as a bulwark against major infectious diseases, while we accept religious exemptions.
What is my assurance of my child’s safety?
The Academy is in a very safe neighborhood. We set very clear expectations of student behavior, as noted in our policy handbook. The handbook also sets our policies on drugs and weapons (never having needed enforcement!). We have rehearsed protocols for all emergencies. You can also witness how students treat each other. With all of our teachers and all of our students knowing each other, we know very quickly about student conflicts. The conflicts are resolved by the eye-to-eye method of resolution; each student gets to state his or her case, uninterrupted; the pair or students, or the group, must agree on a resolution and then return to class or to play.
When can I visit?
We have had open houses, which we curtailed during the COVID-19 pandemic but may reinstate shortly. You can also make an appointment to come in during the school day. You can make an appointment to see the school at one of a wide variety of times and days by contacting our Head of School, Dr. Lou Ellen Kay, at (575) 521-9384 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.