About Our School


Our school's brochure can be downloaded here. (Required Adobe Acrobat Reader)

About Us

Founded in 1974, The Lehman Alternative Community School (LACS) is Ithaca’s public alternative middle and high school of choice operating within the guidelines developed by the Ithaca City School District and New York State Department of Education. LACS is a small school of 275 students who have been drawn by lottery from our applicant pool; typically there is a long waiting list for admission. Our student population includes a range of students from those receiving special education and ESL services to merit-based scholars. Picture of LACS LibraryOur school community reflects the geographic, cultural, and socio-economic diversity of the Ithaca City School District. Our students are particularly known for their community service involvement, political and social advocacy, outstanding drama productions, photography and video work, and participation in district-wide interscholastic sports.

Ithaca is a city of approximately 50,000 people located in the Finger Lakes region of New York State. The chief industry is education with Cornell University, Ithaca College, and Tompkins Cortland Community College in the immediate vicinity. Our school district covers 155 square miles of combined rural, suburban, and urban population areas and is among the most diverse populations in
the state, outside of the five major metropolitan cities.


What Makes Us Different?


LACS's educational philosophy is based on the premise that students have the right to make decisions about their own education.

Another part of this idea is that students should not try to cover a great deal of material in their education, touching only briefly on each subject, but should rather try to go in-depth on a few subjects and really learn them. To make this happen, historically LACS staff have attempted to design a schedule and curriculum that gives students opportunities to study subjects of particular interest to them. Historically, middle school curriculum tends to try to be a little broader in topics covered (science, social studies, English classes change from semester to semester, Intro classes to foreign languages). Our high school tends to focus in-depth on more specialized topics of interest.

Students participate in designing their own learning at LACS. LACS integrates writing and research in all classes providing students with many opportunities to develop their skills across our curriculum. Our structure allows students time to incorporate reflection and discussion of their ideas into written assignments and in-class discussions.

Graduation by Exhibition:

LACS students are required to “show what they know.”

We ask potential LACS graduates this essential question: “How can you exhibit that you have the skills, knowledge, and attitudes needed to be respectful, responsible global citizens?” Picture of LACS Exterior HallwayIn answering, students participate in a key part of our program designed
around our Graduation by Exhibition portfolio-based system of authentic assessments documenting mastery within each essential area. In addition, each student prepares and presents to their “Graduation Committee.” Exhibitions include a team interdisciplinary graduation project, an individual senior project, and an LACS graduation portfolio containing descriptions of two or more indepth
studies, each involving at least two “advanced explorations.”

The work represents the synthesis of a student’s personal development in areas such as becoming a self-directed learner, learning responsible habits of behavior and critical habits of mind as well as mastering the LACS core curriculum comprised of the seven
essentials for the global citizen developed by our professional staff in consultation with educational experts.

GBE Requirements

LACS Graduates will be:

I. Community participants and leaders who work and live cooperatively with others, contribute to the community, and explore career possibilities;

II. Communicators who read, write, and speak in English; listen, speak, read, and write in a language other than English; use the language of mathematics; use graphic and/or observational/objective drawing; and use the personal
computer effectively;

III. Critical thinkers and problem solvers who act on and reflect an antibias attitude, use the different methods of critical thinking and problem solving, use the process of conflict resolution;

IV. Designers, producers, and performers who pursue concentrated study in one art area: theater, music, movement, visual arts, media, or technology;

V. Researchers with a historical and multicultural perspective who understand U.S. history and the processes of democratic government, understand global studies and multiculturalism, and understand local, national, and global economics;

VI. Contributors to sustaining the natural environment who know the key concepts of physical, biological, and chemical components of the environment; understand the interrelatedness of the key concepts of the natural environment’
and are aware of their own personal impact on the environment;

VII. Healthy persons who demonstrate physical fitness, group participation, and the meeting of personal physical challenges; demonstrate an understanding of concepts of human sexuality and current major health issues (e.g. STDs, and
substance use/abuse); and demonstrate an understanding of—and personal progress towards—being a healthy person.

In assessing their progress in these seven essential areas, LACS students receive narrative evaluations rather than grades. These evaluations let students know how well they have mastered class content as well as how their study habits and communication skills are developing. Students complete a “self-evaluation” section of the narrative evaluation which gives them an opportunity to reflect on their progress in the class. We believe that students, parents, and teachers benefit from the depth of this process.


LACS makes a sincere effort to create a meaningful and respectful community, including students, teachers/staff, parents and other community members.

As a smaller school of approximately 305 students, most LACSers know each other, and care a great deal about one another. Important issues in maintaining such a community are respect and equality. There are many small things that LACS does to promote these aspects of a community. Students are taught to peacefully coexist with each other and the staff, but on the occasions that conflicts do arise, we work out the problems verbally. We have a mediation committee, and failing that, the Alternative Community Court. Students and teachers are on a much more equal basis with each other. To show this mutual respect, students call teachers by their first names (for that matter, the teachers call the students by their first names too!).

LACS students want to make a difference.

LACS is a democratically-run learning community where students share with the staff in the day-to-day operation of the school.
Each student participates in these three areas of school and self-governance:

  1. Family Group—a small advising and support group of 1-2 staff members and 12-14 students meeting twice per week working on curricular and cultural issues.
  2. Committee—a group meeting twice per week working in decision-making groups (e.g. Alternative Community Court, Agenda
    Committee) or action-oriented groups (e.g. Eco-action, Maintenance, LACS Café) to help run the school.
  3. All School Meeting—a once per week “Town Meeting” led by Agenda Committee members where the entire LACS community discusses and decides pertinent all-school issues, most-often generated by student and staff proposals.

Picture of LACS Science ClassroomLACS students plan week-long spring trips where staff and students travel, learn, and work together. These trips require extensive research, travel planning, and fundraising. “Trips Week” is designed to give each student a challenging personal and
group experience in a non-school environment.

LACS students work closely with members of the Ithaca Community. At any given time, approximately twenty percent of our students work at community placements in areas ranging from horticulture labs and veterinary hospitals to retail establishments and artists’ studios. Students work at these placements for career experience or as part of their academic program “on-the-job.”

Within our community our students have earned the reputation of being active in their commitment to the service of other people, and are able to think and act with unusual depth and maturity.


Projects allow students to pursue extra studies outside of their regular classes.

Project time is yet another way we do "alternative learning." The idea is that not all skills are things you learn by sitting in a classroom day in and day out, and there are plenty of fun things to do that regular schools don't give students (and staff!) time for. All Thursday morning and all Tuesday afternoon, students can choose from a list of things such as silkscreening and indoor soccer that we otherwise wouldn't have time for. It can also be used as a resource time, for math help or science help, or for portfolio completion.

The Ox (Our School Mascot!):

LACS's founder (and namessake) Dr. Dave (Dr. David Lehman) tells us that the ox was chosen from the American folktale of Paul Bunyan. Wherever Paul's giant pet, Babe the Blue Ox, went, he left enormous footprints. This paralleled the enourmous footprints that LACSers intend to leave in their communities. Additionally, early LACSers pronounced our initials as "ox" (we used to be called "ACS"). Accordingly, the blue ox is our mascot.



Last Updated ( Friday, 04 February 2011 )
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