U-46 still has concerns with Elgin charter school contract
Officials Tuesday night tried to hash out concerns with the terms of a contract for a proposed Elgin charter school.
Elgin Area School District U-46 has been negotiating with the Elgin Charter School Initiative on issues pertaining to the proposed school's ability to provide special education services and transportation to at-risk students.
Several school board members earlier expressed concerns about the proposed Elgin Math and Science charter school's ability to attract and maintain a population of 60 percent at-risk students and sought a detailed recruitment plan toward meeting that goal.
Kerry Kelly, president of the Elgin Charter School Initiative, told the board she would give members a draft outreach plan today.
Originally district officials wanted to include a contract requirement that special education services for eligible students be provided by the district through third-party vendors, as well as a provision to reduce the school's funding by whatever costs would be associated with the district providing specialized services.
However, the group is seeking 100 percent of tuition for special education students -- about $9,000 per student -- from the district and has committed to spending 8.5 percent of its revenues on special education needs, which includes hiring three employees. It also would be required to set up a special contingency fund for any extraordinary special education expenses or potential litigation arising.
District officials said if the charter school were to receive 100 percent of funding, it would be responsible for providing all special education services and resolving any claims.
The district originally had proposed providing 91 percent funding to the school, retaining 9 percent to address any complaints or provide any needed services for special education students. Still officials were concerned about whether the district could be held liable if the charter school does not provide adequate services for special needs students, as mandated by law.
The school board in April allowed the charter proposal to move forward against the recommendation of district administrators, provided both parties agree on contract terms by June 30.
The school is proposed to open in August 2018 with 200 students in kindergarten through third grade, adding grades each year through eighth for up to 450 students.
The proposed location for the school also is in question. The charter group plans to lease the former Fox River Country Day School at 1600 Dundee Ave. in Elgin from the city of Elgin. It has until Sept. 30 to secure permits for construction and rehabilitation of one of the buildings from the regional office of education and must secure an occupancy permit by May 15, per the district's stipulation.
In its latest contract proposal, the charter group is seeking the option of using an alternative site if the Fox River property becomes unavailable. It has identified two backups -- the Rakow building in Elgin and U-46's Wayne Elementary School.
"We need a little bit of flexibility on the facility timewise in case we don't use that facility," Kelly said.
If the charter school needs to be moved to an alternate site after it opens, district officials insisted the group provide at least 120-day notice to families.
U-46 Citizens' Advisory Council member Larry Bury asked the school board to terminate negotiations with the charter group because it has not provided a revised budget for the proposed school for public inspection or board review.
"This is not a trivial matter," he said. "As we have seen repeatedly during this process, EMSA leadership has been less than forthcoming on critical information." Bury urged the school board to include strong accountability measures into the contract.