In the mid-1980s, Bill Carpenter and his wife wanted a better education for their son. The family was looking for a local school that celebrated student strengths, addressed academic weaknesses directly, and integrated critical life skills into the curriculum – a place where students with learning disabilities could feel they belonged.
Learning Skills Academy accepted its first six students in the fall of 1985, with the guidance of Carpenter and his family and the educational direction of Carol Cook. Jason Holder and Adventurelore were part of the LSA program from its inception. In 1996, we built our permanent home at 1247 Washington Road, across the driveway from the original rooms.
Since then, LSA has grown in a number of ways. In addition to those with language-based learning disabilities, LSA is now approved to provide instruction for students with other health impairments and speech and language impairments. Our methodology also works well for some students with non-verbal learning disabilities.
Our approach to instruction has also evolved. For example, we went from discrete tutorials in phonology, to embracing a lab approach to teaching all aspects of reading. The Language Lab (now known as Literacy Lab) was born in 2004 and the Math Lab followed in 2009.
In 2008, the school became formally approved by the Massachusetts Department of Education, allowing Massachusetts school districts greater ease in placing students in a New Hampshire school. Current Executive Director Karen Staines even serves as an alternate on the Massachusetts Association of Approved 766 Private Schools, cementing our ongoing commitment to serve students from Massachusetts. LSA completed its most recent re-accreditation with the New Hampshire Department of Education in 2016, earning a full five-year approval status. Maine students are regularly enrolled as well.
LSA has expanded the grade levels we serve to include grades 11 and 12, and received NHDOE approval to grant diplomas. In 2012, LSA added third graders and increased our capacity to accept up to 52 students. That summer we also expanded our facilities, renovating a suite of offices in the building across the parking lot (the home of our original rooms) to establish a dedicated Upper School.
To accommodate our growth, LSA has increased the staff to 37. After developing relationships with Franklin Pierce, Granite State College, and University of New Hampshire, LSA has trained and mentored both educational and speech language interns; some of those newly trained professionals have even joined our staff.
The most important aspect of our growth is our educational program. Some recent developments to LSA’s curriculum include creating a Lower School musical, developing building arts classes, strengthening the afterschool offerings including Girls on the Run and Martial Arts, and providing overnight experiences for 7th-12th graders; Cape Cod, the White Mountains, and New York City are just a few examples.
The extended school year program expanded from individual tutorials in basic skills to an integrated Summer Academy featuring not only academics, but also Adventures in Learning –skill development with a flair.