The 30 buildings spread over 70 acres of land that used to be Spring Creek Lodge have been sitting dormant for over a year. In less than a month they will once again be filled with students and teachers devoted to academic achievement.
The Academy for National Native Leadership officially purchased the land this past week and is set to start summer classes June 8.
The Academy currently resides in Libby and offers educational classes for children in kindergarten through twelfth grade and decided to open a second location offering college courses and certificates in Thompson Falls in order to expand their program.
"It's a fantastic property. We are now expanding our program and offering four college credit classes at the new site. We've contracted with different universities to provide instruction at that site and our tuition rates are very competitive and better than most schools in Montana," said Matt Hollingsworth, Chief Executive at the Academy.
The curriculum will prepare students for various job positions throughout the country, from trade jobs to secondary education courses. The new college courses offered will include nursing programs and trade programs such as heavy equipment training. Hollingsworth said the programs offered will be no shorter than two years as the school believes it will take that long to make sure the students are fully trained and qualified for the job position they are set to take after graduation and any shorter of a program will not fully prepare the students.
"We talk to employers so they hire a person that they don't train themselves. Our sole purpose is for students to get a job. Our new motto has been ‘education without employment equals failure,'" said Hollingsworth.
There are currently 100 students enrolled to begin summer classes, a number that will surely grow once the fall semester begins in September. The students will live on campus, and the Academy will utilize a majority of the furniture that was left behind from Spring Creek Lodge.
Hollingsworth stressed that the campus will be open to the public, unlike Spring Creek that kept its school fairly secluded. The Academy will have a full-service restaurant and is set to hire local residents as employees.
Hollingsworth said they will foreseeably be able to hire well over 100 people from Sanders County once they are able to get the school to its full capacity. There have already been a number of local residents hired at the school.
They also have plans to build different stores around the property to sell necessity items and showcase native artwork, such as ivory carvings.
The Academy is working closely with Job Services located at the state building in Thompson Falls in order to find qualified educators. Some of the courses taught at the Academy will require certification, which said Hollingsworth, employees can be trained directly through the school to receive the necessary certificates.
"We will pull as many qualified people from the community as we can. We'll be working with people who submit applications through the job service to get them certified if they have the proper background as educators. We can also hire subject matter experts and trade people. If we were offering a trained certification course someone who is a trained operator can go through the college and we will provide instruction," said Hollingsworth.
Hollingsworth said the response through Job Services has so far been overwhelming and they are in process of going through applications while trying to get settled at their new location.
Job Services is located in Thompson Falls at 2504 Tradewinds Way for those interested in filling out an application.
The Academy will be community based and will host an open house in the coming weeks, which will be open to all members of the public.
"We're excited for the community and excited for Sanders County and we've had a fantastic reception from everyone and we've already hired several people from the community and we really enjoy and appreciate the citizen base in Sanders County. We are bringing a resource to the community and we will do field trips and our students will contribute to the local community," said Hollingsworth.