Elgin charter school decision could come Monday
Elgin schools' officials expect to vote Monday on a contract for a proposed Elgin charter school, though issues remain with its terms.
Elgin Area School District U-46 board members were divided this week about the level of funding U-46 would need to provide the school.
The Elgin Math and Science Academy charter school would open in August 2018 with 200 students in kindergarten to third grade, adding grades each year through eighth for up to 450 students.
Officials with the Elgin Charter School Initiative are seeking 92 percent of tuition -- about $9,476 per student -- from the district to maintain a proposed $1.9 million budget for the first year.
The district originally proposed providing 91 percent funding to the school, retaining 9 percent to address any complaints or provide any needed services for special education students.
"The difference that we are talking about is $20,000 between 91 percent and 92 percent," board member Melissa Owens said. "If we are talking about it breaking the budget, I think I have some real concerns about the viability of that budget."
Board member Jeanette Ward said she supports 92 percent funding and questioned why others were arguing about $20,000.
Board President Donna Smith said the district and the charter group seem to be going back and forth on the same issues.
"It's more important what they need, because if we can't provide what they need, then we're not doing any good," Smith said.
The charter group also is seeking flexibility on a location for the school. It plans to lease the former Fox River Country Day School at 1600 Dundee Ave. from the city of Elgin. The group is seeking the option of an alternative site if that property becomes unavailable.
It has identified two backups -- the Rakow building in Elgin and U-46's Wayne Elementary School. It has until Sept. 30 to secure permits for construction and rehabilitation of one of the buildings from the regional office of education and secure an occupancy permit by May 15.
"The main building they want to start with shouldn't take that long for them to do repairs," U-46 Chief Operations Officer Jeff King said. "Most of the rest of the structures are going to need significant work. There's black mold in several of the buildings."
District officials insist the group provide at least 120 days' notice to families if the school needs to move to an alternate site. Board members agreed they want to vote on the use of any alternative site.
School board member Traci O'Neal Ellis said questions remain, especially regarding the school's ability to attract and maintain a population of 60 percent at-risk students. Ellis was disappointed with the group's marketing plan targeting at-risk students.
"It was marketing fluff without the substance," she said.
The school board in April allowed the charter proposal to move forward against the recommendation of district administrators. Both parties must agree on contract terms by June 30.