D301 raises issues on online charter school
By Denise Moran For The Courier-News March 19, 2013 1:12PM
Updated: April 21, 2013 6:28AM
BURLINGTON — The Central Community Unit School District 301 board held a public hearing this week regarding an application by Virtual Learning Solutions for the proposed establishment of an area charter school.
Virtual Learning Solutions has submitted a proposal for a multi-district charter school to operate Illinois Virtual Charter School @ Fox River Valley in District 301 as well as 17 other Fox Valley school districts.
The presentation in Burlington was given by Edwin Fredie, vice president of K12 Inc. He said the charter school provides parents with the chance to pick what’s best for their child’s education.
“Every teacher would have 60 students,” Fredie said. “I expect 50 to 100 of this district’s students would be interested in enrolling, or .25 percent. Those who would benefit from the charter school include students who are struggling, gifted, special needs, homebound, behavioral problems, and bullied. We have a high number of students who are autistic.”
“We are a public school,” Fredie added. “Teachers are all Illinois certified, and students take the same state tests. The curriculum is aligned to the Common Core. If we meet our enrollment targets, we would hold lotteries for additional students.”
Fredie said the typical online student works on his or her studies for eight to 10 hours a day. When asked how it can be confirmed that the student spends that much time on school work, Fredie said the proof would be in the printouts of the work that students do and the tests they take.
Board members asked if online students ever receive social interaction with their peers. Fredie said there are field trips, clubs, picnics and science fairs. In order to get their children to these activities, parents would either have to drive them or carpool with other parents.
While 18 school districts have been asked to partner with the charter school, it was noted that none of the districts would have representation on the charter school’s board.
“The charter school is said to be not-for-profit,” Superintendent Todd Stirn said. “Have they broken down the costs? It was announced that the K12 CEO (Ron Packard) had a $5 million compensation package in 2011. It’s hard to justify support for the school after hearing that.”
While each member of the board researched the charter school proposal and had a number of questions, Fredie was not always ready to answer them. He jotted down the questions during the two-hour hearing and promised to provide the requested information.
One audience member said he has taught 5,000 online students and stressed that online education will continue to be important in the future. However, he voiced doubts about the proposed charter school for this area.
“I’m not sure your proposal is strong enough,” he said. “Fundamental questions were not answered.”
Stirn said the school board will make its decision on the proposed charter school during its next meeting on Monday night, April 15.