Prairie Crossing Charter School in Grayslake is celebrating its second consecutive national education award.
This year, Prairie Crossing is one of 286 recipients of the national Blue Ribbon Award of Excellence. Prairie Crossing is among 21 schools to receive the honor in Illinois.
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Public and private elementary, middle and high schools are eligible for the federal blue ribbon honor and must be nominated by top state education officials. The award is meant to recognize schools where students perform at very high levels or where significant improvements are being made in achievement levels.
Opened by the Illinois State Board of Education in 1999, Prairie Crossing is an environmentally focused choice school serving kindergarten through eighth grade. Executive Director Geoff Deigan said Tuesday the blue ribbon is confirmation of the school's academic rigor.
"It is an award, but it is a reward for all of the hard efforts to make this school be recognized," Deigan said.
U.S. Department of Education officials plan to honor the schools at recognition ceremonies Nov. 18 and 19 in Washington, D.C. Deigan said Prairie Crossing will be represented in the nation's capital.
In 2012, Prairie Crossing received the national Green Ribbon Award. That federal award, in part, honors schools for using a comprehensive approach to creating "green" environments and promoting good health.
Parents in Woodland Elementary District 50 and Fremont Elementary District 79 may send their children at no extra cost to the 392-student-capacity Prairie Crossing, which determines enrollment by lottery. Deigan said Prairie Crossing treats the parents as clients because they voluntarily select the school for their children.
"The partnering with parents is a huge part of our excellence," he said.
Prairie Crossing spokeswoman Dil Dybas said it's the first federal blue ribbon award for the school. A brief assembly was held last week to celebrate the honor, but Deigan said another public recognition is likely.
Despite periodic accolades since opening in 1999, Prairie Crossing has been an occasional source of controversy. For example, officials at Gurnee-based Woodland have voiced concern over what they say is an unfair method of how state-approved charter schools are formed. Woodland officials said $3 million in general state aid the district received had to be forwarded to Prairie Crossing to help pay for children whose parents elected to send them there in the last academic year.
Other federal blue ribbon winners for this year include St. Peter Lutheran School in Arlington Heights and Twin Groves Middle School in Buffalo Grove.