Elgin charter school group receives grant for recruiting students
The group proposing a charter school in Elgin has received a $30,000 grant to support outreach and student recruitment efforts in the city's low-income neighborhoods, and to recruit a principal, a spokeswoman said.
Elgin Area School District U-46 will determine the fate of the proposed Elgin Math and Science Academy (EMSA) Charter School. The district is reviewing the charter application and will conduct a public hearing June 23. U-46 and the state must sign off on the proposal.
"We are recruiting students for a school that doesn't yet exist," said Karen Schock, president of the Elgin Charter School Initiative. "We have to explain our ideas and our educational philosophy ... because we have to demonstrate support for this school."
The Walton Family Foundation Public Charter School startup grant -- administered by the family that owns Wal-Mart -- is meant specifically for groups that are awaiting their charter to be granted, Schock said.
"It's a very competitive grant so we're very proud that we received it," she said. "We spent a lot of time preparing our application for the (grant). They have been involved in innovative (projects) supporting and improving K-12 education."
The proposed charter school's primary focus would be on science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and would use Expeditionary Learning curriculum that is aligned with Common Core state standards.
Expeditionary Learning allows students to spend a portion of each day dedicated to exploring real-life problems and solutions. All subjects are integrated into the expedition experience. Students produce presentations, booklets, videos or performances based on their expeditions. If approved, the school would offer kindergarten through second-grade classes in the first year, and eventually expand up to eighth grade.
"We want our school population to reflect Elgin's population in diversity, culture, and talent," Schock said. "The Walton Family Foundation has extensive experience with charter schools. This grant recognizes EMSA at the national level as a school with a high probability of success with at-risk students."
The grant money will be used to produce materials educating parents about the charter school that will be handed out at community events and forums, and to set up informational booths, Schock said.
"It will still be a highly intensive volunteer effort," Schock said. "We're planning to be at the Downtown Neighborhood Association (of Elgin) harvest markets every Thursday."
Group leaders also will distribute materials during Elgin's Fourth of July parade at the Butterfly Garden off Ann Street and Douglas Avenue, she added.
The charter group is seeking the city of Elgin's approval to lease the former Fox River Country Day School property at 1600 Dundee Ave.
The Elgin City Council voted Wednesday night to seek more requests for proposals -- for a 90-day period, rather than the 30 days allotted the first time -- from any entities interested in the former school campus.
Schock said the charter group will submit another leasing proposal to the city, but also is considering alternative former school sites in Elgin.
"We're continuing to research locations," she said.
Parents can sign up potential students for the charter school at elginmathandscience.org or email inquiries to