Community leaders have been working together since 2008 as the Lake County Renewable Energy Working Group toward the creation of an instructional innovation and learning center that will improve individual lives and the greater community by offering education that is normally accessible elsewhere, as well as innovative educational programs unique to the region. Lake County was defined as one of the most isolated communities in the state, often making it necessary for residents to leave the county in order to secure or retain a job. One goal of the new center was for individuals to have the ability to offer job training, four-year bachelor degrees, professional certifications, continuing education, and other advanced learning opportunities. Training for and within the local community is designed to retain young people who want to stay in the region.
The vision of this group was to provide access to expanded learning to meet the needs of individuals, families, businesses, and communities, recognizing that schools need families and communities that are involved in the education of students, and communities need schools to provide innovative education. The project aimed to find ways to provide additional dual-credit offerings for secondary students and college level courses for all age groups. Distance learning opportunities could be achieved through video-conferencing and remote access courses. One of the anticipated outcomes from this project was to attract students and teachers to the innovation and learning center from outside the region. Program offerings could include those produced within Lake County, particularly programs and projects related to natural resources and renewable energy.
Lake County School District #7 has made available the Daly Middle School to be the home of the innovation and learning center. Neighboring school districts are also partnering and leveraging resources; for example, the Paisley School District #11 planned to offer its dormitory (vacant during the summer months) for use by visiting teachers and foresters participating in continuing education programs. Lake County Resources Initiative currently operates a summer forest monitoring crew that could support continuing education with field experience. As one stakeholder noted, “Education is the common element that binds this community together.”