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Charter school proposal gets the thumbs down from Joliet school board

Plans to open a charter school to serve Joliet’s middle and high school students has gotten a thumbs down by Joliet Elementary School District 86 board members.

Board members on April 19 unanimously rejected the proposal. Though the proposed charter school would serve middle and high school students, plans for the school were never presented to Joliet Township High School District 202 board members — a flaw that was listed among the chief reasons elementary school board members rejected the proposal.

In the board’s resolution rejecting the proposal, school officials cite several concerns ranging from curriculum and transportation issues to a lack of public support for such a proposal.

“We didn’t thick that the proposal really sufficiently stated the case for a charter school,” said Nick Sakellariou, attorney for the school district.

Rising Champions College Preparatory Academy proposed opening a charter school by the same name in Joliet. It was the first charter school proposed for Joliet Elementary School District 86. Two proposals for a charter school serving Joliet high school students also have been rejected in recent years.

There are 123 charter school campuses in Illinois, with the majority in Chicago. There are no charter schools in Will County.

Charter schools, often touted as a way to address problems in failing schools, have come under question after the recent release of a report that Chicago’s charter schools perform no better than their traditional neighborhood schools — and in some cases perform worse.

Nadege Myers, president of the charter school group, said the board’s rejection would be reviewed. She was unsure if the decision would be appealed to the state’s charter school commission. Any appeal must  be made within 30 days of the school board’s decision.

Other problems with the proposal included a school site that was out of the district and incomplete financial information. School officials also expressed concern over curriculum plans.

“We would not dismiss (a charter school proposal) out of hand,” Sakellariou said. “But it needs to provide some high-powered alternative to the school district  and we haven’t seen that in this proposal.”

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