North Country School opens second campus

Outside groups will be able to stay at Round Lake

This home will be the primary boarding facility for outside groups, such as other private and public schools, to stay in while they utilize educational offerings at North Country School’s new Round Lake Campus. (Enterprise photo — Antonio Olivero)

LAKE PLACID — North Country School will open a new, nearby lakefront campus this year for other schools and groups to use for short-term boarding, education and activities.

The day and boarding school on state Route 73 is referring to this new facility as its Round Lake Campus. Situated on the small, private waterbody’s western shore at the end of Wright’s Way, it’s 20 acres, complete with an eastward view 2,000 feet across the lake to the school ground’s beach and main grounds. The center of the new campus is a large house near the lake with a stunning view into the Cascade pass. Those who will use the grounds will also have access to a boathouse, barn, cottage and several other smaller buildings.

The school purchased this property in 2015 from the Cushman family, longtime local landowners, for $1.55 million. It’s an investment in another revenue stream, along with the school and the Treetops summer camp.

Head of School David “Hock” Hochschartner said the separate campus will give public and private schools, and North Country alumni a place to stay while engaging in things they can’t receive back home. He singled out North Country’s farm-to-fork, performing and studio arts, and outdoor education as offerings the school feels can attract interested parties.

It will help the school reach people who want to use the school’s programs but don’t want to commit to nine months of schooling or seven weeks of summer camp.

“We recognize we should be offering other kinds of things to other people,” he said.

“This is something we’ve talked about for a really long time, maybe three decades,” he added. “But the stumbling block has always been, ‘Where would we put those people?’ Now we know; we can put those people on the other side of the lake with 10 bedrooms in it.”

A group of 14 students and three teachers from a private school in New Jersey used the space once last year. Now the school is welcoming others.

“We don’t expect it to be a full 52 weeks of the year,” Hochschartner said, “but we do expect, we think the school that came up last year will come up again. We’ll reach out to other local and regional schools as well. And we expect to offer a long weekend program around Columbus Day weekend for our alumni. We’ll probably be doing that for alumni on most major three-day weekends — Martin Luther King Day, Memorial Day and next year on Labor Day.”

The Round Lake Campus is a part of the school’s three core components — “to innovate, enhance and unify” — that are driving its future after its administrative team and board of trustees completed its new strategic plan this year.

The school hired Peter Bullock, previously of Shelburne Farms in Vermont, to develop programs for the new campus and to direct it full time.

“There are some programs that we used to do,” Hochschartner said, singling out destination rock climbing and other trips off campus. “Over the course of time,” he added, “we just haven’t had the bandwidth to run those programs anymore.”

Until interest in its programming fills up, Hochschartner said the school is open to renting the property out for vacations by alumni, as well as family and friends of students and faculty. He mentioned that five alumni families and families of current students from Guatemala will stay at the campus from Dec. 14 until Jan. 2, bridging a break for their children during the school year.

On Thursday, six days before North Country’s academic year begins on Wednesday, construction workers were busy building a parking area for the new campus. Hochschartner said the school intends to add to the Round Lake Campus, including lean-tos, over the next five years.

Back to class

North Country School, founded in 1938, runs fourth through ninth grades. When classes start on Wednesday, it will have 70 total students: 50 boarders and 20 day students.

That enrollment is up from 55 a year ago, but the school had 90 students just three years ago. For years it remained steady between 85 and 90, before dropping to 75 in 2015.

The trend was also felt by other traditional boarding schools around the U.S. They blamed it on the increasing popularity of charter schools and independent day schools.

Hochshartner says this year’s growth has come especially in younger grades and day students.

“We think we will have that cohort of new or relatively new young day students who are in the fourth, fifth and sixth grades,” he said. “We hope they will be right on with us until the ninth grade.”

International students have been a mainstay at North Country School. Ten of this year’s students are from China and five from Guatemala. Mexico, Thailand, South Korea and Japan will also be represented, as will eight U.S. states.