Elgin group resubmits charter school proposal
A group seeking to open a once-denied charter school in Elgin is hopeful the second time will be the charm.
The Elgin Charter School Initiative submitted its second charter application Tuesday to Elgin Area School District U-46. A 2014 proposal was denied by the U-46 school board and the Illinois State Charter School Commission.
Founding board President Kerry Kelly said the latest proposal still calls for a school focused on math and science offering classes from kindergarten through eighth grades.
What's different this time is group leaders have been working with U-46 officials to address concerns about how at-risk students, such as special education, English language learners, low-income and minority students, would be served. This proposal also addresses how finances would be handled, she added.
"We met with every single school board member," Kelly said. "We feel pretty good with what we've proposed."
A new design team of parents, volunteers and professionals from various fields drafted this latest proposal, and a new board has been established to run the school.
Group leaders also have visited five area charter schools to learn from successful models and consulted with experts and independent advisers before drafting the proposal.
The group also has a shot at securing $950,000 in federal funding to kick-start the project. Illinois is promised $42 million from the U.S. Department of Education over five years to provide financial assistance for the planning, program design and initial implementation of charter schools statewide.
Kelly said the grant application must be submitted by Feb. 12, but its approval would is contingent upon U-46 and the state sanctioning the charter.
U-46 has a diverse population of more than 40,000 students. Since charter schools operate within public school districts' boundaries, they are funded through property taxes and accountable to the districts funding them.
In year one, with 200 students, the Elgin Math and Science 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. And at full enrollment of 450 students in year six, the financial impact would be less than 1 percent of U-46's current revenue, per the proposal.
U-46 spokeswoman Mary Fergus said officials haven't reviewed the application. Within 45 days, the school board must conduct a public meeting to discuss the proposal, and make its decision to grant or deny the charter within 30 days from that meeting, per Illinois school code.
The charter school would open in August 2018 with students in kindergarten through third grade -- two classes per grade comprising 25 students per class. Each year, another grade would be added. The school would incorporate Expeditionary Learning curriculum -- allowing students to spend a portion of each day exploring real-life problems -- aligned with Common Core state standards.
Its proposed location is the former Fox River Country Day School at 1600 Dundee Ave., owned by the city of Elgin. An official said repairs and renovations of the property's 11 buildings could cost up to $5 million.
Kelly said the group could secure staggered loans to improve the buildings they need for the school.