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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Liberty Commons High School

Our Brazilian exchange student is going to Liberty Commons High School.  It was the only school left with room for an exchange student, and I'm glad he was able to get a spot.  It seems like a reasonable fit for him, and it gives me a change to get to know  a high school I was interested in for Bit Boy, but didn't get a chance to see.

Liberty Commons High School (commonly called "Liberty") is a parent run public charter school.  It has  420 students, grades 7-12.  It grew from the Liberty Commons Elementary school.  Although they share the same campus, the 7th and 8th graders have a different lunch than the 9-12th grades.    I was amused to learn that Liberty has "houses" for the 9-12th grades (and "orders" for the 7-8).  Each house has it's own name (using the cardinal virtues), motto, and student president. The houses and orders are a bit like "home room" or "advising" period in other schools, allowing the students to have a smaller group of individuals to become familiar with and work with across grades.

Liberty is billed as a classical education with a common core foundation, but has a growing reputation as a good engineering prep school.  My first exposure to Liberty was when Firelord came home from volunteering at High School Days at our local university, where high school students are introduced to basic engineering concepts and given application opportunities.  He was most impressed with the Liberty students.  As a whole their diligence, insight, and demeanor set them well above the other students.  A friend who works in the Engineering College at CSU told me that department is actively recruiting from Liberty Commons High School because their  admitted students have been outstanding.

LCHS has some drawbacks.  The first thing most parents and students notice is the dress code.  Our exchange student had to go shopping in his first days here because his standard teenage wardrobe of t-shirts and jeans was not acceptable.  The most important thing families should know going in is that the course work and homework load are considerable.  Our student is exceptional academically and has been quite capable of getting his work done (despite working in his second language), however it leaves little time for other activities.   It was refreshing, if telling, when the soccer coach told us directly "We know Liberty has a lot of homework.  If you need to miss practice to keep up with school, just send us an email or give us a call to let us know."

LCHS is not for every family.  The majority of families and teachers there seem to be fundamentalist Christians, something that was demonstrated in the fall soccer banquet when the head coach repeatedly commented on "God's plan for this young man".   There are a few liberal families there, but they keep their heads down and their mouths shut.  If, like me, you have out spoken tie-dye wearing hippie kids, they're probably not going to feel at home here.  Also, LCHS's budget is well above that allocated by the state so their fund raising is non stop.  If regular requests for donations of time and money are going to get your goat, this probably isn't the place for you.  There is a strong expectation of volunteering and financial contribution at this school.

If you have a diligent student who is wanted an academically  rigorous high school experience, and you are willing to give up the time it takes to support that student and this school, then Liberty might be an excellent fit for you.  If you have a student who is more interested in the arts, outside projects, or just isn't willing or able to keep up with the difficult course load, you might want to keep looking.

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