The Platteville School Board may be exploring the idea of establishing an unique charter school in the school district. During its regular meeting on Monday evening, Connie Valenza, superintendent, presented the board with an opportunity for the district to apply for a planning grant. If the board approves submitting an application for a planning grant, the district could receive up to $175,000 to study the possibility of establishing a charter school. The board will need to vote during its March 26 meeting in order to make the deadline for the application submittal. The money would come from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) through the federal government.
If the board approves moving forward with applying for the planning grant that does not mean a charter school will be established. The grant money would be used for a feasibility study to help determine if the Platteville School District could make a charter school worthwhile, both for students and for the district.
In addition, if the board feels a charter school would be beneficial there is up to $175,000 available in an implementation grant for up to two years.
The charter school is currently being recognized as the S.T.E.A.M. Academy (Science, Technology, Engineering, Agriculture, and Math).
If approved following the feasibility study, the timeline would be:
• 2012-2013 - planning year
• 2013-2014 - enroll the first group of ninth and tenth grade students
• 2014 - grow into the 11th grade
• 2015-2016 - first graduating class
The charter school would be different from the traditional high school environment by having a heavier integration of STEM concepts, will not be defined by periods, is project-based learning, there is more employment site-based/less classroom based study, and it will not provide the comprehensive high school experience. Students enrolled in the charter school would be able to participate in extra-curricular activities at Platteville High School.
The charter school will be similar to Platteville High School in that certified staff will be Platteville School District employees, students will belong to the Platteville School District, and students will need to meet state graduation requirements in order to receive a diploma.
In addition, various partnerships will be included with the charter school, such as with UW-Platteville, Southwest Tech and Southwest Health Center.
District officials are also hopeful a charter school would attract students from outside of the district.
"Southwest Wisconsin is very ripe for this type of thing," said Valenza.
Due to the expected partnerships and the unique studies of the charter school, Valenza is confident the district would receive the planning grant.
There are many unanswered questions in regard to a charter school. Valenza noted many of the questions would be answered with the feasibility study.
Dr. Jeff Jacobson, Platteville High School principal, noted that even if the board does not decide to move ahead with the charter school they may learn some valuable information through the feasibility study that may benefit the high school.
Tim Murphy, board member, noted that this charter school is in no way similar to the charter school system in Milwaukee.