The Lake Geneva school districts are offering students new alternatives to complete their education in a home-school environment.
Starting in the fall, both the elementary school and high school districts will introduce charter school programs that are designed for students who want to spend more time outside of a traditional classroom setting.
Maple Park Charter School will serve pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade students, while New Visions Charter School will be available to high school-aged students.
It is Lake Geneva’s first venture into charter schools, which are non-traditional schools established by special action of a local school board to serve students in a customized setting with relaxed rules and regulations.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for students,” elementary school board president Marcie Hollmann said. “I think it’s going to be very positive.”
The school boards for Lake Geneva Joint No. 1 and the Lake Geneva-Genoa City Union High School districts both approved the charter school program in December, and state regulators at the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction added their approval in January.
Janice Eckola, director of curriculum and instruction for Lake Geneva’s public school system, said officials had been mulling the move since the beginning of the current school year, after parents requested consideration of the charter school option.
“We’ve heard comments from the community during the last year that they wanted a format that would benefit their students,” Eckola said. “The Lake Geneva school districts are looking to meet the students’ needs.”
Maple Park Charter School for elementary school kids will operate similar to a home-school program, although parents will meet with teachers at a school to discuss courses and learning materials for their children. Students will work at home with a parent, then attend school on Tuesdays and Thursdays to take a music, art or language class, as well as a science, technology, engineering and math program.
A student’s progress will be tracked by a teacher who is working with the student’s family.
“Parents choose the education that they want their student to have at home,” Eckola said.
The location for the Maple Park program has not been chosen yet, but Eckola said it probably will be the existing elementary school where the most students choose the charter school option.
“We want to see where the majority of the students are from,” she said. “We want to make sure we meet the demands of our community the best we can.”
Students in the New Visions Charter School for high school kids will take online courses at home and then go to Badger for career-preparatory or elective classes, such as a shop class, advanced chemistry class or theater class.
Eckola said students can mix the number of classes that they take online and at the high school as they like.
“Some students might take three classes online and then come to Badger High School for the rest of their classes,” she said. “If they’re taking welding or shop classes, obviously that’s hands on, and they would have to come to the high school to take those.”
Badger school board president Pat Sherman said the way students are educated has changed over the years, and the charter school concept is a way to go along with that change.
Officials are trying to benefit students who may not excel in a traditional school setting, Sherman said.
“It’s another way to approach education,” he said. “I’ve been with the school board for about 28 years now, and I’ve seen education change dramatically during those 28 years.”
The charter schools will be governed by a charter school board, which will report to both existing school boards once a year on how the new programs are progressing. The charter school board will consist of seven members selected by the two school districts.
The school districts are currently accepting enrollment for the charter schools for the 2019-2020 school year. Eckola said she is not certain how many students will be able to enroll.
An informational meeting regarding the charter schools is scheduled 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Feb. 26 at the school district administrative office.
Several parents have expressed an interest in enrolling their children in a charter school, Eckola said.
“I’m excited,” she said. “I think it will be a great program.”