About Lone Pine Prep School for Gifted Learning in Fort Collins, Colorado

Lone Pine Prep School for Gifted Learning LLC Mission Statement:

Our mission is to meet the unique needs of gifted (HG/EG/PG) middle school students by offering the highest level of academic instruction while ensuring a healthy and balanced developmental experience.

  • EXCEPTIONAL ACADEMICS:  We offer exceptional academics inspired by the established success of world-class, secondary and higher education institutions such as: Phillips Exeter Academy, Columbia University, Cranbrook, the Bloomfield Hills Schools, etc., of which the Founders, themselves, hail as Alumni.  With 28% more instructional time than public schools require, our students have time to explore their coursework more deeply.  We also remove the roadblocks set up for younger students by other area schools; Lone Pine is the ONLY school in Fort Collins that facilitates middle school students working from middle school through college level in all academic areas, with instructors that have taught at the college level in their respective subjects.
  • INDIVIDUAL ATTENTION:  Our experienced teachers design a learning plan for each student, adjusted to meet his or her specific needs in each area.  Your student often has one-on-one instruction, and even our largest core subject classes average fewer than 12 students. Each Lone Pine Prep student has an individual learning plan (similar to an ALP at public schools but much more detailed and all-encompassing), which we honor as a contract with the family.  Each individual learning plan includes academic goals from our extensive menu of academic offerings (with customizations as needed), social/emotional and affective goals, and other goals created through discussions between the student, family, and staff.
  • MEETING GIFTED LEARNERS' NEEDS:  Lone Pine Prep students enjoy deep and meaningful learning opportunities at a level commensurate with their advanced needs.  With your student's input, we create a customized plan leading to impressive growth in each subject, and we continually adjust the plan to keep your student appropriately challenged as they mature.  We address students' social, emotional, and movement needs and intentionally incorporate significant student choice into their plan.
  • SUPPORTIVE COMMUNITY:  At Lone Pine Prep, our students bond with kindred spirits - peers with an internal "spark" for academic learning and achievement - through shared experiences and using teamwork to solve challenges. Lone Pine is a safe, supportive environment where staying curious about learning, working hard, and practicing kindness and compassion as a community, is what is "cool."  



The Founders' Journey:

The Founders are grown-up GT kids who learned much about the lack of GT offerings from their own K-12 school experiences. Once we had our own GT kids, we found the same issues still persist. We concluded that there is a need for a gifted middle school in Fort Collins after having found that local options only include:

  • Schools with an academic focus, but with an overt religious or political agenda. 
  • Schools that attempt to meet the needs of gifted students by simply assigning more and more "busy work" and by moving faster and faster through the curriculum. As one local parent put it, "There are so many 'elite' schools that seem to conflate academic excellence with assigning huge workloads... as though they are teaching the kids to be those who will memorize the future, instead of being the ones who will create it. I am looking for a school that keeps homework to reasonable levels and focuses on learning."
  • Enormous middle schools where gifted students "get lost in the crowd" and/or "slip through the cracks" and hence, do not get the individualized attention they need and deserve - often because it is assumed that they already "get it" and "will be fine, regardless."
  • Schools with a social culture that reinforces a stereotype that students who wish to thrive and achieve academically are not "cool" and/or are considered "weird" for wanting to learn beyond the course offerings.  
  • Schools burdened by slow-moving, bureaucratic systems and rigid academic course schedules that do not allow gifted students the access to appropriately advanced placements. Parents of gifted students often feel that they have to fight the system to address their student's needs rather than feeling a sense of team-work with the staff of their child's school.
  • Schools that only offer "Enrichment" to meet the needs of gifted learners, which might offer them a fun break during the day, but that is not a well-planned, fully-integrated, and comprehensive curriculum (which is even more fun!). 
  • Homeschooling, which removes one parent's income, and for varied reasons is not an option for many families. Furthermore, those families that find homeschooling to be a possible and successful route to meet their student's needs, often report that it can become costly if one wishes to diversify their homeschool plan by incorporating enrichment activities (music, sports, etc.). Also, the enrichment activities offered for homeschool students can be "hit-or-miss" in terms of quality and reliability.


Our Solution:

Our solution was to design a school that meets all the needs we identified:

  • Course offerings that extend through college-level material in math, science, literature, history, and computer science, while realizing that students may not be equally advanced in all areas (e.g. a student studying calculus, but writing at a sixth-grade level).  We are able to offer students challenging coursework in all subject areas, as appropriate, and without stressing them out!
  • A school that can keep our students' quirks and needs in mind, yet prepare them to do well in any academic high school and college setting - no matter how "traditional" or "progressive" an institution they choose for their next step. This means that Lone Pine students will be intentionally taught how to build organizational skills, exercise executive functioning, and gain important social/academic code-switching awareness - so they will be able to earn grades that reflect their understanding (not a "C" because they missed a due date, or a "3" because they wrote "with Python" as their entire answer to an AP exam question that asked them to describe how they designed their program)!
  • A school that realizes that our students can do college-level work but are still middle schoolers - needing breaks to move and get sensory input, and still learning how to react and navigate the world with emotional maturity. We wanted a school that specifically addressed social/emotional skills and gave our students time to be the kids that they still are.
  • A school that has the culture that working hard and trying difficult things is better than coasting and acing easy things. Students need to learn to bounce back from a loss or a failure; these can show that the challenge level is appropriate and that everyone experiences setbacks.  Middle schoolers -- especially girls -- need to be surrounded by peers that support academics; middle school is most often where females lose interest in STEM studies.

The Founders:


Karen Karppinen, MS.Ed., CO-Certified K-6 all subjects, 7-12 math & science

A Michigan native, I have been teaching math, science, computer science, and Latin since 1999. My BS is in biology (minors in math and chemistry), with 21 graduate credits in math, 16 graduate credits in computer science, and 6 graduate credits in Latin.  I founded the original Lone Pine in 2006, building it into the top online Latin program in the nation.  Rebecca and I added the homeschool enrichment program to Lone Pine in 2014, offering a full schedule of classes encompassing all subjects along with extracurriculars such as Science Olympiad, chess, MathCounts, and SeaPerch.  I enjoy building competitive academic teams (such as MathCounts), as the process encourages students to invest time in a subject and see that their effort leads to much stronger skills, new friendships, and a greater sense of personal accomplishment.



Rebecca Watkins

An Alaska native, Rebecca has always been an advocate of STEM education, exploring the intersections of STEM and the arts, and empowering women in scientific pursuits.  By day, she is a health care worker at PVH.  When she reveals her other superpowers, she is a Lego Robotics and Science Olympiad coach extraordinaire, pottery instructor, and global explorer with her 4 children.

Founder 3:  Bio coming soon!  Founder 3 has a Master's Degree in Literature, has taught from the middle school through college level, and specializes in literature and writing to middle schoolers.

Founder 4:  Bio coming soon!  Founder 4 has a Master's Degree, has taught from the middle school through college level, and specializes in history, modern languages, and the arts.


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Last modified: Sunday, 7 February 2021, 2:56 PM