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updated: 4/15/2013 11:23 PM

Dist. 203 joins others in rejecting virtual charter school

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Naperville Unit District 203 board members, hoping to avoid a "veritable disaster" Monday night, unanimously denied a petition for a virtual charter school hoping open in the coming school year.

The Virtual Charter School @ Fox River Valley, proposed earlier this year by St. Charles-based Virtual Learning Solutions, intends to operate in 18 local school districts and provide an alternative learning solution for students who don't do well in a traditional school setting.

A majority of those districts have already denied the application, setting up a likely hearing before the Illinois Charter School Commission in the near future.

Superintendent Dan Bridges urged the board to deny the application earlier this month, after a poor showing by charter school officials at a public hearing and their subsequent refusal to answer more than 143 follow-up questions posed by the district.

Monday night, Bridges reiterated his recommendation, saying despite a binder of information recently submitted by charter school officials, he still does not believe the program would be beneficial to district students.

"My recommendation is based on the lack of merits of the application that was brought forward," he said.

Board members unanimously followed his lead.

"At its core we have in front of us a substandard application to provide a program that has, itself, proved to be substandard," said Suzyn Price. "I also wonder how an organization that could not rouse itself to provide a rigorous application or enthusiastic answers to should-have-been-expected questions is going to summon the energy to provide a rigorous and enthusiastic education for its students."

Terry Fielden said he believes there is a "place" for a virtual charter school but it's not District 203.

"I don't think they offer a good educational value for the students who will attend or attend online," he said. "I think that's the bigger issue. They provide no value."

With several districts also denying the application, the final decision now likely rests with the state commission, which can overrule the local boards.

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