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Waupaca explores charter school

Board approves timeline

By Robert Cloud

Waupaca took another step toward opening a charter school.

Waupaca School Board members voted unanimously on Tuesday, Sept. 12, to approve a timeline for developing a charter school.

The board did not approve the school itself because the advisory team organizing it must first establish a governing council, establish accountability and financial measures, determine its curriculum and write a contract with the district.

The charter school contract must be approved by both the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction and the school board.

Rhonda Hare, the district’s director of instruction, spoke to the board about the charter school.

Hare said the plan is to locate the charter school in the existing Chain O’ Lakes Elementary facility.

The new school would be called Chain O’ Lakes Exploration Center.

“Students will be able to follow their own interests,” Hare said.

“A place where children explore their passions and engaged in project-based learning both as an individual and in a collaborative community,” Hare said, reading from the charter school’s mission statement. “Students will use their imagination and creative skills to be innovative and inspire others while growing in wisdom.”

Hare described project-based learning as students working on independent or group activities, based on their interests.

Although the learning methods are different, charter school students must still meet academic standards that are appropriate for their age level.

Hare said the four pillars of the program are STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), environmental, agriculture and the arts.

In its first year, which could be as soon as the fall of 2018, the charter school is projected to have 54 third- through fifth-grade students and three teachers.

Two of the teachers would be moved from other buildings, while one new teacher would be hired.

The charter school is projected to expand to nine staff with 162 students in kindergarten through eighth-grade by its fourth year.

Students will be recruited, and a lottery may be held if more than 54 students apply.

The cost to run the charter school in its first year is estimated at $140,000.

This amount includes $50,000 for professional development, $70,000 for the new teacher, $10,000 for supplies and technology and $10,000 for marketing.

Hare said professional training is essential for making a project-based charter school successful.

“In project-based (learning), the child is seeking knowledge, and you’re there to guide them,” she said.

In October, members of the advisory team will visit other charter schools, attend training sessions and conferences, develop a marketing plan and search for qualified teachers for project-based learning.

A presentation to the school board is planned for its December meeting.

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