What Exactly Is Blackwell Academy?
Max describes the academy as a school for seniors on the very first page of her journal:
"I GOT ACCEPTED INTO BLACKWELL ACADEMY. If words could dance this would be a rave. Even though I’ve never been to one. But who cares because I GOT INTO BLACKWELL ACADEMY, a unique and famous private school for seniors!"
However, we know from LiS [Season 1] that Victoria Chase, Brooke Scott, and Dana Ward were all living in dorms at Blackwell Academy at least 6 months before Max began her attendance as a senior in the fall of 2013. This would suggest that the academy operates like a normal high school (not solely for seniors as Max's journal entry implies).
This journal entry was considered to be either an oversight in the writing or an ambiguity arising from Max’s figure of speech as the above students are still present when Max attends at the beginning of a new school year.
Square Enix’s ‘Life Is Strange’ Community Manager, Toby Palm, was asked if the Blackwell Academy educational system could be explained. On 7th July 2017, this was the public response:
“This is a topic that Deck Nine have worked on since very early on in the project and that we’re very aware of could cause a bit of confusion. . . . To answer the question: Between the events of Before the Storm and [LiS: Season 1], Blackwell Academy changes its curriculum and student body make-up. There are narrative reasons for this that we begin exploring via secondary plot-lines over the events of BtS and, for the sake of avoiding spoilers, I won’t delve too deeply into them here. . . . Blackwell’s change results in the hiring of famous art teachers like Mark Jefferson and the eventual shift to a specialized two-year extended senior program.
Prior to this evolution, Blackwell Academy is a fairly standard private high school, with four grades. . . .
For a bit of background information for those further interested in two-year senior programs - While the system is pretty unusual, it isn’t totally unprecedented in the US. Some references here:
For certain prestigious private schools, this fifth year can amount to college credit, or can be seen as giving students a leg up to get into a really prestigious arts education like Julliard.”
This recent clarification of Blackwell Academy having an “eventual shift to a specialized two-year extended senior program” is great work by Deck Nine Games (if this was their creation), because this not only explains why Rachel was still a student at Blackwell Academy in spring 2013 (else she would have graduated out of high school as a 12th-grade senior in spring 2012), but it also resolves a timeline issue that was created when DONTNOD gave Victoria two different DOBs.
The only problem is that this explanation has seemingly been undone for Victoria in the BtS timeline by making her a sophomore instead of a freshman in May 2010. (More on this to follow in a separate blog post.)
(Extract taken from 'LiS/BtS - Questions of Consistency - V2' - a Google Doc created on 27th June 2017 by 'Nat and Izzy 2017'.)
* Perhaps of note is the very last sentence on Max's character page in her journal where she says: "And now I've come all the way back to my childhood home to study photography at Blackwell Academy, a private school for 12th grade seniors." The mention of '12th grade seniors' seems like a redundancy in the phrasing as the normal senior year is the 12th grade anyway.
(See this Wikia section for a brief explanation about Victoria's two different DOBs.)