A proposed Elgin charter school will receive $950,000 in federal funds to assist with the facility's opening, state education officials announced Wednesday.
The Elgin Math and Science Academy charter school proposal received a conditional thumbs-up last month from the Elgin Area School District U-46 school board. The Charter Schools Program grant, awarded by the Illinois State Board of Education, will help cover startup costs and the implementation of an expeditionary learning model, said Kerry Kelly, president of the Elgin Charter School Initiative.
"This was crucial for us," she said. "We are really looking forward to working with the district and bringing this exciting math and science charter school to Elgin."
The U-46 school board's approval is contingent upon both parties' agreement of a contract by June 30. The board's decision went against the recommendation of district administrators, who urged denial of the proposal for flaws in its education and business plans, and for not adequately addressing the needs of at-risk populations.
Kelly said discussions with the district so far have been cordial and collaborative. U-46 officials were unavailable for comment Wednesday.
The group's next step, Kelly said, is to secure a lease with the city of Elgin on the proposed charter school site, the former Fox River Country Day School at 1600 Dundee Ave. The Elgin City Council previously approved a plan to lease the land for $1 per year, she said, but has yet to officially adopt the lease.
"That's going to determine a lot of our costs moving forward," she said, noting the school will have to borrow money to finance renovations and initial operations.
The Charter Schools Program grant can't be used for regular operating expenses, Kelly said, but it can go toward hiring a principal or school leader in the academy's planning year. A large portion of the funds will also be used for training staff members and teachers in the hands-on expeditionary learning techniques that will be used at the school, she said.
A 2014 proposal by the same group was denied by the U-46 school board and the Illinois State Charter School Commission.
The charter school, if ultimately approved, would open in August 2018 with students in kindergarten through third grade. Another grade would be added each year, eventually offering classes through eighth grade.
In year one, with 200 students, the academy would cost U-46 roughly $2 million -- less than half of 1 percent of the district's roughly $512 million in revenues for the current school year.
• Daily Herald staff writer Madhu Krishnamurthy contributed to this report.