Charter school could grow
JANESVILLE A Janesville charter school might expand next fall, increasing the number of young adults with high school diplomas while boosting enrollment and revenue for the Janesville School District.
Those are the benefits of a proposal the district's administration will present to the school board early in the new year.
The proposal calls for the expansion of Rock River Charter School, which provides alternative programs that help high school students who are at risk of dropping out. The school also has programs to help dropouts get a high school equivalency degree through the GED Option 2 program.
The school had an enrollment of 156 in September. It has a waiting list, with students selected through a lottery. Officials are optimistic about increasing the enrollment.
"We have kids to serve, and that's going to be my message—how are we going to serve these kids?" Superintendent Karen Schulte said of her pitch to the school board.
Schulte noted that increased enrollment would mean more state aid. District documents describing the proposal suggest the expansion would more than pay for itself.
The school board has told Schulte to increase the district's enrollment, and this is one way to do it, Schulte said.
"That's very clearly one of their goals, so I'm keeping my eye on that, on how we can grow the numbers in our district," Schulte said.
Rock River Charter School occupies the first two floors of 31 W. Milwaukee St. The plan is to expand to the third floor, which is where the Janesville Academy for International Studies was located before it moved to UW-Rock County last year.
Rock River Charter serves students ages 14-21. State law allows students to receive public-school education through the semester of their 21st birthdays.
Officials estimate they could add 35 students in the 2013-14 school year and increase that number by 10 in each of the succeeding years.
The move would require the hiring of two teachers and a clerk/aide, increased rent of $33,720 annually and renovations costing $10,000. Increased custodial services would cost $10,000.
With 55 students, the district would see an increase of $352,550 in per-student state aid. Costs—salaries, benefits and rent—would be $211,461, so the district would see an annual budget benefit of $141,089, officials estimate.
School board member Kevin Murray, who reviewed the plan at a recent board committee meeting, questioned how certain it is that enrollment—and revenue—would increase as much as officials think.
"On paper it looks great, but then what if you can't meet those goals? Where does the money come from?" Murray said.
The district is considering sharing the space with The Literacy Connection—the former Janesville Literacy Council—a non-profit agency that would contribute $8,772 a year in rent.
The school's alternative programs would take in more students at risk of dropping out in grades 9-11 from Craig and Parker high schools or other charter schools.
The program also would take students who are home schooled or are attending outside school districts through the open-enrollment law.
Much of the new enrollment would come from students who already have dropped out. Officials cite the district's dropout rate of 2.28 percent in 2011-12. That's 78 students who didn't get a diploma in that year alone.
The school also would seek dropouts from surrounding school districts, according to a planning memo.
Murray said the increased lease cost would bring the annual total to about $100,000.
The landowner has been generous in setting the rent, but it's still a big outlay, Murray said.
Murray suggested the district look into owning the building that houses Rock River Charter School, but ownership comes with added upkeep costs, Schulte noted.