Elgin charter opens; Students return to classrooms across Kane, McHenry counties

  • Kindergartner Elisa Piercey arrives for the first day of classes at the new Elgin Math and Science Academy Charter School Wednesday. Students returned to classrooms in several school districts across Kane and McHenry counties.

      Kindergartner Elisa Piercey arrives for the first day of classes at the new Elgin Math and Science Academy Charter School Wednesday. Students returned to classrooms in several school districts across Kane and McHenry counties. Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Principal Lezlie Fuhr greets students on the first day of classes Wednesday at the new Elgin Math and Science Academy Charter School.

      Principal Lezlie Fuhr greets students on the first day of classes Wednesday at the new Elgin Math and Science Academy Charter School. Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Second-grade teacher Karl Harris leads students in a creative circle during the first day of classes Wednesday at the new Elgin Math and Science Academy.

      Second-grade teacher Karl Harris leads students in a creative circle during the first day of classes Wednesday at the new Elgin Math and Science Academy. Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • New Willard Elementary School Principal Dustin Covarrubias tries to calm a worried Joey Kern, 7, who started second grade Wednesday at the South Elgin school. More than 39,000 students resumed classes at Elgin Area School District U-46 schools.

      New Willard Elementary School Principal Dustin Covarrubias tries to calm a worried Joey Kern, 7, who started second grade Wednesday at the South Elgin school. More than 39,000 students resumed classes at Elgin Area School District U-46 schools. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • New Willard Elementary School Principal Dustin Covarrubias greets students Wednesday at the South Elgin school on the first day of classes.

      New Willard Elementary School Principal Dustin Covarrubias greets students Wednesday at the South Elgin school on the first day of classes. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Parents line up to say goodbye to their children during the first day of classes at Willard Elementary School in South Elgin.

      Parents line up to say goodbye to their children during the first day of classes at Willard Elementary School in South Elgin. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • First-grader Sam Stoner, center, makes a friend while waiting in line for classes to start Wednesday at Willard Elementary School in South Elgin.

      First-grader Sam Stoner, center, makes a friend while waiting in line for classes to start Wednesday at Willard Elementary School in South Elgin. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Firefighters Kevin Billenstein, left, and Darren Taylor of the Huntley Fire Protection District greet students with high-fives as they walk into Chesak Elementary School in Lake in the Hills for the first day of classes. More than 9,400 students and 750 certified staff members returned for the new school year.

    Firefighters Kevin Billenstein, left, and Darren Taylor of the Huntley Fire Protection District greet students with high-fives as they walk into Chesak Elementary School in Lake in the Hills for the first day of classes. More than 9,400 students and 750 certified staff members returned for the new school year. Courtesy of Huntley Community School District 158

  • New Huntley High School Principal Marcus Belin helps students find their next class during a passing period Wednesday on the first day of school. "Don't worry, I'm new too," he said.

    New Huntley High School Principal Marcus Belin helps students find their next class during a passing period Wednesday on the first day of school. "Don't worry, I'm new too," he said. Courtesy of Huntley Community School District 158

  • Chesak Elementary School first-graders Enrique Almodovar, left, Chase Gilliam, right, and Jude Mains, middle back, are greeted by Champ the Cheetah as they head into the Lake in the Hills school for the first day of classes Wednesday.

    Chesak Elementary School first-graders Enrique Almodovar, left, Chase Gilliam, right, and Jude Mains, middle back, are greeted by Champ the Cheetah as they head into the Lake in the Hills school for the first day of classes Wednesday. Courtesy of Huntley Community School District 158

  • Students returned for the first day of classes Wednesday at J.B. Nelson Elementary School in Batavia. More than 5,800 students in Batavia Unit District 101, and thousands more in school districts throughout Kane and McHenry counties are back in session.

    Students returned for the first day of classes Wednesday at J.B. Nelson Elementary School in Batavia. More than 5,800 students in Batavia Unit District 101, and thousands more in school districts throughout Kane and McHenry counties are back in session. Courtesy of Batavia Unit District 101

  • More than 39,000 students across Elgin Area School District U-46 returned to classes Wednesday on the first day of school.

    More than 39,000 students across Elgin Area School District U-46 returned to classes Wednesday on the first day of school. Courtesy of Elgin Area School District U-46

  • This first-grader at Sunnydale Elementary School in Streamwood was among more than 39,000 students across Elgin Area School District U-46 who returned Wednesday for the first day of classes for this school year.

    This first-grader at Sunnydale Elementary School in Streamwood was among more than 39,000 students across Elgin Area School District U-46 who returned Wednesday for the first day of classes for this school year. Courtesy of Elgin Area School District U-46

  • This student at Sunnydale Elementary School in Streamwood was among more than 39,000 students across Elgin Area School District U-46 who returned Wednesday for the first day of classes for this school year.

    This student at Sunnydale Elementary School in Streamwood was among more than 39,000 students across Elgin Area School District U-46 who returned Wednesday for the first day of classes for this school year. Courtesy of Elgin Area School District U-46

  • Larkin High School students were welcomed by the Elgin school's marching band Wednesday on the first day of classes.

    Larkin High School students were welcomed by the Elgin school's marching band Wednesday on the first day of classes. Courtesy of Elgin Area School District U-46

  • South Elgin High School students received new, personal Chromebooks Wednesday on the first day of classes for this school year.

    South Elgin High School students received new, personal Chromebooks Wednesday on the first day of classes for this school year. Courtesy of Elgin Area School District U-46

  • South Elgin High School students try out their new, personal Chromebooks Wednesday on the first day of classes.

    South Elgin High School students try out their new, personal Chromebooks Wednesday on the first day of classes. Courtesy of Elgin Area School District U-46

  • South Elgin High School students received new, personal Chromebooks Wednesday on the first day of classes. Elgin Area School District U-46 officials distributed more than 13,000 Chromebooks to middle and high school students. Students in ninth through 12th grades were issued a dedicated Chromebook to use throughout the school year.

    South Elgin High School students received new, personal Chromebooks Wednesday on the first day of classes. Elgin Area School District U-46 officials distributed more than 13,000 Chromebooks to middle and high school students. Students in ninth through 12th grades were issued a dedicated Chromebook to use throughout the school year. Courtesy of Elgin Area School District U-46

 
 
Updated 8/15/2018 6:39 PM

Thousands of students headed back to school Wednesday across Kane and McHenry counties inaugurating new classrooms, and welcoming new principals, programs and equipment.

Classes resumed in Elgin Area School District U-46, Huntley Community School District 158, Crystal Lake Community High School District 155 and Batavia Unit District 101, while Elgin's first charter school welcomed students.

 

The long-anticipated opening of the Elgin Math and Science Academy Charter School evoked a mixture of emotions from parents, school board members, employees, and its 208 students in kindergarten through third grade.

Having fewer students per classroom than U-46 elementary schools makes it easier for students to learn, said parent Ramiro Castrejon, of Elgin, dropping off supplies for his 7-year-old daughter, Aariana, who is starting second grade. The charter school has two classes per grade, each with 26 students.

Aariana previously attended Washington Elementary School in Elgin, but EMSA's math and science focus was an allure, Castrejon said.

"I love math," Castrejon said. "I would like her to do science. They get to go out, do exploration. Makes learning fun, I guess. She got up early for once. She was excited to ride the bus."

Elgin Police Sgt. Eric Echevarria said he and his wife, Maribel, who teaches first grade at the charter school, hope it will creatively motivate their 6-year-old son starting first grade there.

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"He's been home-schooled up until kindergarten ... at Century Oaks," Echevarria said. "We needed a change, a place where our son would be challenged. I thought this would be a great fit."

Echevarria and another officer welcomed students handing out pencils, high-fives and "making sure everything is safe."

The group of parents and community members managing the Elgin charter school fought for and won state permission to open it after previously being denied once by the Illinois State Charter School Commission and twice by the U-46 school board. In October, the state panel sanctioned the charter primarily to serve at-risk students in the area under state oversight.

"It's finally happening ... a lot of hard work went into this by a lot of people," said Larry Sirridge, of Elgin, a member of the charter board overseeing facilities.

The school site is the Neill building on the campus of the former Fox River Country Day School on Dundee Avenue, leased from the city of Elgin. It houses 13 classrooms. School leaders plan to add grades each year through eighth grade for a maximum enrollment of 400 students.

"It's so exciting," said Principal Lezlie Fuhr, who has been working to get the school ready for months. "The first day is always the most hectic. The kids bring the magic."

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