The Lincoln Academy, Beloit’s new public charter school, will open this fall with a sixth grade—space for 50 more children—to ensure students are prepared for higher-level courses in high school.
The new school, which is still under construction at 608 Henry Ave., will start enrolling students Feb. 1.
Original plans called for the academy to have 4K through second grades and seventh through ninth grades in its first year. The Kids First Board of Directors approved adding a sixth grade in December, increasing the potential student body from 350 to 400 students, CEO Kristi Cole said.
In a news release, Kids First Beloit—which is building the school—cited 2018-19 data from the Wisconsin Forward math exam for sixth-graders, which showed only 16.1% of all Beloit School District students were proficient in math.
That proficiency percentage breaks down to 2.8% of Black students, 10.8% of Hispanic students and 31.9% of white students in the district. The data was verified on the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction website.
Given that data, Chief Instructional Officer Kari Flitz said school officials must assume that students need the sixth-grade year to meet grade-level expectations and to be prepared for higher-level high school courses. Without it, certain careers could be out of reach for them, she said.
Cole said the academic data for math and other subjects illustrates the need for the school.
The Lincoln Academy is envisioned as a 4K-12 independent charter school. It is authorized through the UW System and has finalized contract negotiations with the UW-Madison Office of Educational Opportunity. Tuition will be free, and enrollment is open to any Wisconsin student.
In an interview this week, Cole said construction on the building is about 60% complete.
“Several classrooms are already constructed within the facility,” she said. “It’s really progressing quickly, and it will be ready for occupancy in July.”
Each year, the school will add two more grade levels and four more classes, or 100 students a year until it reaches 700. Cole said it is possible enrollment eventually could exceed 700 students.
“It depends on growth and the desire of the community. We have to take it one step at a time,” she said.
The school is looking to hire 60 staff members its first year and had hired five as of Monday.
Students at the academy will wear uniforms and attend school from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. because of additional intervention and enrichment classes. With so many different grades in one building, Cole said the school will have a family environment and opportunities for older students to mentor younger ones.
All staff, students and parents will adhere to a set of expectations set forth in a “commitment to success” document, which must be signed by a parent/guardian, teacher and student.
The academy plans to offer various sports, including volleyball, cross country, track and field, golf, basketball, and baseball, and it is applying to participate in the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association.
School officials said they have not yet discussed partnering with the Beloit School District on sports or other activities. They are working on partnerships with the YMCA Rock County and Boys and Girls Club and say they might consider reaching out to other smaller school districts.
When asked what the Lincoln Academy can offer the Beloit School District, Cole said school officials are open to sharing professional development practices and might be able to offer the district more in the future.
“The opportunities for partnering could be endless,” she said.
Lisa Furseth, secretary to the board of directors, said the school will have a parent advisory council that will offer input and feedback for staff and provide updates to the board.