Archive for Tuesday, December 9, 2003

District faces competition for charter school money

December 9, 2003


An online school under development by the Lawrence school district faces stiff competition for $8 million in state grants available to new charter schools in Kansas.

The district must submit its application to the Kansas Department of Education by Feb. 1.

With public education budgets already tight, there will be no shortage of Kansas school districts taking a shot at the start-up money.

"They think it's going to be very steep," Mike Eltschinger, the district's supervisor of instructional technology, told the school board Monday.

A final draft of the proposal will be ready for a public hearing Jan. 12.

The board will vote on the package Jan. 26 and the state should announce grant recipients in March.

Under the plan, students in third grade through eighth grade would enroll in online computer courses in basic subjects such as English and math. Students from all over the state would be eligible.

Board member Rich Minder said an advantage for the Lawrence district was close proximity to educators at Kansas University with expertise in online education.

"We have the potential to create an innovative milieu ... that some communities don't have," he said.

An online school poses significant challenges for teachers, said Leni Salkind, a board member and former teacher.

Not every teacher intrigued by the idea of online instruction is capable of doing it well, she said.

The district intends to request $633,000 for 2005, $651,000 for 2006 and $733,000 for 2007. The charter school won't go forward if the grant request is denied, Supt. Randy Weseman said.

If the grant is approved, the district will try to enroll 30 students by 2005. The goal is 60 the second year and 90 the third year. Students could take a single course or a series of classes taught by certified teachers.

"There is a potential population there who might be interested in participating in our program," Eltschinger said.

The goal is to have a financially self-sustaining charter school at the end of the grant period. That would require about 150 students, he said.

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