A new Beloit public charter school focused on career preparation will start enrolling students Feb. 1.
Construction continues at The Lincoln Academy, a planned 4K-12 charter school at 608 Henry Ave. The school received charter approval from the University of Wisconsin Office of Educational Opportunity in May and is close to finalizing a contract, school officials said.
Kids First Beloit, an educational initiative launched by a group of civic and business leaders called the Beloit 200, is building the three-story, 112,000-square-foot school to give public school parents another option in the Beloit School District, according to the Kids First website.
The school is scheduled to be completed in July and will open Sept. 1, offering 4K to second grades and seventh to ninth grades—up to 350 students the first year. The school will add more grades depending on enrollment, eventually growing to 700 students in all grades.
Tuition will be free, and enrollment is open to any Wisconsin student.
CEO Kristi Cole said the school will hold an enrollment period from Feb. 1-28.
The school’s leadership team includes Cole, Director of Instruction Kari Flitz, Director of Career Planning and Partnerships Laura Benisch and Director of Finance and Operations Gregory Gurley. Director of Student Services Yolanda Rivera, who is bilingual, starts in January.
The team just started formal recruitment for the K-12 principal, and teacher recruitment will start early next year.
Benisch said the team also is working with the community to develop business partnerships for student career pathways. More than 20 businesses already have expressed interest, she said.
Students will begin learning about career areas as early as 4K and will set goals as part of their individual learning plans in ensuing years. By seventh and eighth grades, they will begin to take exploratory career-related courses in such areas as hydroponics, construction, metal arts, ceramics, health care, robotics, information technology and performing arts.
By graduation, students either will be enrolled at a 2- or 4-year college or university, enrolled or enlisted in the armed forces, or employed in a living-wage job.
The new school will include many areas for hands-on learning, including an art studio and construction area as well as laboratories for metals, agriculture, bioscience, information technology, engineering/robotics and digital arts for student media broadcasting.
The fabrication lab will feature 3-D printers and computer numerical control, or CNC, machines. Five welding booths will be available along with a sound-recording booth for students to produce music and take voice lessons.
“There are lots of opportunities for our scholars to have hands-on experiences and exploratory opportunities at the school as well as in the community, which is an exciting aspect of what this can bring to Beloit,” Cole said.
The new school also will house a two-story music and theater space, a two-story library, outdoor amphitheater and playground.
To ensure safety, classrooms will have touchless faucets and sinks for hand-washing and an HVAC system for air filtration.
“The priority will be in-person learning with safety precautions,” Cole said.
Between each classroom will be a small breakout room for small-group instruction and support. Each class will be 25 students with a teacher and educational assistant.
School officials are reaching out to other school districts about coordinating extracurricular activities. The Lincoln Academy plans to offer spring, winter and fall sports. Other extracurricular offerings will depend on student needs, Cole said.
“We are working with the YMCA and Boys and Girls Club on before- and after-school care and sports and activities,” she said.
If it receives authorization as an independent charter school, the school will receive $8,619 in state aid per student.