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updated: 9/5/2017 2:23 PM

What you need to know about Elgin charter school appeal

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  • A public hearing is Thursday on a proposal for an Elgin charter school targeted for the former Fox River Country Day School campus in Elgin. The proposal failed twice to garner the blessing of U-46 officials.

      A public hearing is Thursday on a proposal for an Elgin charter school targeted for the former Fox River Country Day School campus in Elgin. The proposal failed twice to garner the blessing of U-46 officials.
    Rick West | Staff Photographer

 
 

People living within Elgin Area School District U-46 can weigh in on a twice-defeated charter school proposal at a public hearing Thursday.

Members of the Elgin Charter School Initiative will plead their case before the Illinois State Charter School Commission from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Centre of Elgin, 100 Symphony Way. Signup for public comment opens at 4 p.m.

Here's what you need to know about the proposal:

Why U-46 denied EMSA's proposal

In June, the U-46 school board denied the EMSA Charter School proposal, citing concerns with the plan's economic soundness, the school's ability to serve at-risk students, its proposed curriculum and potential financial impact. A 2014 proposal by the same charter group was denied by the U-46 board and state commission. Read a U-46 committee's evaluation of the charter proposal, the school board's rationale for denial, and U-46's response to EMSA's appeal.

Who would EMSA serve?

• EMSA's charter school would help alleviate overcrowding at some Elgin schools. It would cater to roughly 200 students in kindergarten to third grade in the first year, adding grades each year through eighth for up to 700 students in year six. Its target audience is at-risk students. Check out EMSA's appeal.

How is it different from U-46 schools?

• The school would incorporate Expeditionary Learning curriculum aligned with Common Core state standards. It would allow students to spend a portion of each day exploring real-life problems.

Where it would be located

• The proposed school site is the roughly 53-acre former Fox River Country Day School campus at 1600 Dundee Ave., leased from the city of Elgin. In July, the Elgin City Council approved a lease agreement for the school from April 1, 2018, through June 30, 2023, for $1 yearly with option to renew. The lease is contingent upon the state commission's approval of the charter proposal. The charter group would utilize several buildings on campus, including a dining hall, administration building, field house, and athletic/gymnasium building that require substantial repairs.

How it would be funded

• The Elgin group is seeking 100 percent of state funding for tuition -- roughly $10,300 per student -- plus categorical funding, such as special education and Title I funds for low-income students, for a total of roughly $2.4 million yearly. The charter group is promised $950,000 in federal reimbursements for initial startup costs associated with the facility's opening, planning, program design, and implementation of the expeditionary learning model. The group also has been preapproved for an up to $200,000 line of credit from Triumph Bank in Elgin.

What are some other potential costs?

• EMSA is responsible for all building renovations of the Fox River Country Day School property and could be eligible for tax credits on work completed. Initial estimates of the cost of repairs are between $1.8 million and $2.9 million to bring the buildings up to usable condition. However, long-term structural repairs needed over the next 10 years could cost millions more. EMSA would have to borrow money for renovations. For cost details, check out EMSA's plan.

How many state-sanctioned charter schools are there?

• Since 2011, the state commission has authorized eight charter schools -- including Prairie Crossing in Grayslake -- serving more than 3,600 students. Pending review by its staff, the state commission will render its decision to grant or deny the appeal Oct. 3. If the commission reverses U-46's denial, the Elgin charter school could open in August 2018 under state oversight.

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