District 300 officials still working on issues with charter school
Whether Cambridge Lakes Charter School in Pingree Grove will remain open after the 2016-17 school year is still up in the air.
Community Unit District 300 officials are working with the school's management to resolve issues, including compliance with state and federal requirements for supporting students with disabilities, students in special education, and English language learners.
Leaders of the Algonquin-based district gave the charter school's management until July 1 to fix the problems identified over the past two years, or the charter would not be renewed.
The school's management has submitted its charter renewal application, including a corrective action plan, which district officials are reviewing.
The current five-year contract for Cambridge Lakes, which opened in 2007, expires at the end of the 2017-18 school year. Charter schools operate within public school districts' boundaries and are funded through property taxes, but they are run by a separate, nonelected board and administration.
District 300 Superintendent Fred Heid said Monday he is pleased with some of the improvements suggested in the management's corrective action plan, though concerns remain specifically related to the school's finances and services for English language learners.
Audits of the school's policies and operations highlighted financial problems with some programs operating in deficit.
"We have sent two emails to Northern Kane Education Corp. (which runs the school) regarding their submission asking for some clarification," Heid said. "We have an internal meeting scheduled tomorrow to compile an update for the board ... in the next 24 to 48 hours."
Heid said the corrective action plan offers "quite substantive" improvement in the area of special education. "There's other areas where we are going to continue to have dialogue," he added.
School board members have been reviewing the charter renewal application and officials will determine whether to schedule a workshop or special meeting to discuss the corrective action plan.
Some contractual language, addressing issues of timeliness and accuracy of invoices, and financial liability, needs to be cleaned up, Heid said.
The existing charter contract requires the district to assume liability for outstanding bonds, if the charter school closes.
"There is no intention of us assuming those bonds," Heid said. "That's something that we have requested to be stricken (from the contract)."
Also, if the school's management can't get its finances in order, the district has offered to take over that responsibility with the proviso that funding would be reduced, Heid said.
The district has 45 days from July 1 to provide a final response to the charter renewal request. A public hearing will be scheduled to gather input on the charter application.