Charter schools hope to expand

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Frank Schultz
Thursday, March 7, 2013

— Two Janesville charter schools would expand next fall if the Janesville School Board agrees.

Officials at both schools say they can attract students from other districts as well as students who have dropped out locally. Those students would bring with them state aid.

Revenue from the new enrollees would cover increased staff and other costs, officials said.

Administration officials presented the plans to the school board's personnel, policy and curriculum committee on Wednesday.

They showed figures indicating they are likely to see more than enough revenue, based on past experience.

The committee moved the requests to the full board for consideration at its meeting Tuesday.

The Janesville Virtual Academy is requesting an increase of 1.6 teaching positions.

The virtual school, which started offering high school courses six years ago, would expand its middle-school program, which began this year.

Virtual course subjects offer Spanish for the first time, and offerings to Craig and Parker high school students would expand. Craig and Parker students could take courses otherwise unavailable because of scheduling conflicts, and they would be able to make up credits they lacked so they could graduate on time.

Last year, 19 local students chose an outside virtual school because of the Janesville Virtual Academy's late start, but plans are to lure at least 12 of those students back to Janesville.

The Rock River Charter School, meanwhile, has renewed its request to expand to the third floor at 31 W. Milwaukee St., where it now leases the first two floors.

The number of new students would depend on how many new teaching positions would be created.

Last year, the virtual school added 1.4 teachers based on a projected doubling of enrollment. Enrollment tripled, said teacher Dave Parr.

Current enrollment is 121 full- and part-time students. Parr said he anticipates more than 200 next year.

Rock River Charter is asking that the board set aside contingency funding for up to two teachers. Teachers would be hired only if the expected enrollment increases materialize this summer.

The board had asked that the administration look into buying a building instead of increasing its leased space at Rock River, and that search continues, said Keith Pennington, district CFO.

Pennington said the district was looking for a building that would house both Rock River and TAGOS Leadership Academy, both of which now lease buildings. However, it's unlikely the district could buy a building and get it ready by September, Pennington said, which is why the administration still wants the third-floor lease for Rock River Charter School.

Rock River has 55 students on a waiting list now, including 18 that are not enrolled locally this school year. They project another 44 students will have applied by this summer, with another 18 that are not enrolled this year.

Not all of those students would be enrolled. Plans call for a maximum increase of 55 if two teachers are hired.

The increased revenue would at least pay for increased staff, the lease and other costs, officials told a school board committee.

The requests to create new teaching positions for both the schools are part of the annual instructional staffing plan.

The board will hear an overview of the entire plan when it meets Tuesday, and could discuss it at a subsequent meeting March 19.

The staffing-plan vote is scheduled April 9.

Last updated: 7:58 am Monday, April 29, 2013

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