Janesville54.3°

Janesville School District considers three new charter schools

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
April 5, 2011
— Janesville public school officials are considering changes they hope will help them compete for students, get more government funding and enhance education.

They're looking at new charter schools.


The school board on Wednesday will consider a proposal to apply for three state charter-school planning grants.


The grants of $250,000 each would go to Jackson, Madison and Van Buren elementary schools, to help them plan to become charter schools. Planning would commence in September.


Each of the schools could qualify for "implementation grants" of $250,000 each for the following two years, according to district documents. Total funding over three years could be $2.25 million.


Superintendent Karen Schulte said the charter schools would not require new buildings or staff. The existing schools would provide that.


The planning grants would pay for research that could include visiting highly regarded schools around the country and planning efforts that involve parents, businesses and other local organizations, Schulte said.


The money also would pay for staff training and equipment, especially computer technology, according to the proposal.


Schulte said the effort would allow the district to compete with privately sponsored charter schools, which could spring up under legislation now being considered in Madison.


"We want to make sure that we keep intact what we think is good and also be able to bring in some money to bring these schools into the 21st century," Schulte said.


The new schools "will position us as leaders in educational excellence and innovation," according to the proposal, and the schools could attract new students to Janesville.


The schools would all focus on "the whole child" and "the whole family," according to the proposal, and would include "project-based (education) and multi-age grouping."


The district's TAGOS Leadership Academy is a charter school for middle and high school students that uses project-based learning. The method moves away from traditional subject-based teaching. Instead, students learn English, math, social studies and science by researching and preparing reports on topics that interest them.


Teacher Al Lindau, a key player in founding TAGOS, wrote the district's proposal for the new charters.


Another goal is to increase test scores in these schools, which have what are considered impediments to academic achievement including poverty.


Jackson School would have one further enhancement: It would be an English-Spanish bilingual school. Bilingual schools typically have classes taught in both languages.


Officials also considered a fourth charter school, a virtual school for the middle school level, but decided to hold off and perhaps apply next year, Schulte said.


If you go


The Janesville School Board will meet at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Educational Services Center, 527 S. Franklin St.


The agenda includes the issuance of teacher layoff notices for the 2011-12 school year and approval of the 2011-12 staffing plan.



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