Geneva board has lots of questions about proposed online charter school

The folks that want to open a virtual, online charter school in the Fox Valley may not have done themselves any favors Monday night in Geneva.

Nobody from Illinois Virtual Academy @ Fox River Valley or K12 Inc., the for-profit company that would provide the instruction, attended a public hearing at the Geneva school board meeting. As one of 18 districts that has to vote on the proposed charter school, the district had to conduct a public hearing on the matter within 45 days of receiving the application.

The district received the charter school application Feb. 14.

“I thought that they really wanted this ... that they would have somebody here,” said board member Mary Stith.

Board member Mike McCormick declined to discuss it at all. “If they aren’t here I’m not going to waste everybody’s time,” he said.

But Randall Greenway, the K12 representative listed on the cover letter of the application, said by telephone after the meeting that K12 had not been told of the hearing or seen a legal notice about it. “It is our intent to have representatives at every public meeting,” he said, “and we’re very disappointed to have missed this public hearing.”

The district published a legal notice of the hearing March 5 in the Kane County Chronicle newspaper.

Board members did receive copies of the school’s 215-page proposal in their board packets late last week.

Board member Kelly Nowak said she wanted information about attrition rates, with students returning to regular schools from the online school. Wilson wondered if the company’s students are even meeting No Child Left Behind Act standards. Nowak also wanted to know how the school would teach social and emotional skills, as in-person schools do, or handle subjects such as choir and band instruction. Stith wanted to know how much the school would spend per pupil.

“I have just have a multitude of issues with this (proposal),” said board member Timothy Moran, wondering how an online school can simultaneously cater to students who are gifted, students who are slow learners, students at risk of dropping out, or others who may not want to attend bricks-and-mortar schools for reasons running from food allergies to training for sports or music competitions, as stated in the proposal.

However, he’s not necessarily against online learning.

“I think eventually schools and school districts are going to have to reconcile themselves to this kind of concept ... but this proposal just doesn’t do it for me,” Moran said.

A date for a vote was not set.

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