December 28, 2011

SABIS proposes new charter school for navy base in North Chicago

Three educational firms are competing for the right to run the first public charter school at Great Lakes Naval Station, state officials announced Tuesday.

If approved early next year, the charter school would be part of North Chicago Unit District 187 and overseen by the Illinois State Board of Education. It would be the second small, public charter school in Lake County.

Mary Fergus, a state board of education spokeswoman, said the Great Lakes charter school is targeted for a 2012-13 academic year opening. There are no other suburban charter school proposals at this time, she added.

Although all children in kindergarten through eighth grade from the North Chicago district would be eligible to attend the charter school, officials may set aside a fixed number of slots exclusively for military families. State law would have to be changed to allow that, Fergus said.

State Superintendent of Schools Christopher Koch said all children within District 187’s boundaries in the North Chicago area would have a chance to benefit from an additional educational opportunity.

“We know change will take time,” Koch said in a statement, “and we will be working closely with this (District 187) and any potential charter for several years to ensure it stays on the right track.”

As proposed, the charter school at Great Lakes would serve up to 500 students. The curriculum might be focused on science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Concept Schools, SABIS Educational Systems Inc. and LEARN Charter School Network are seeking to run the venture. SABIS is a for-profit business, while Concept Schools and LEARN are listed as nonprofit.

Officials from District 187, the state education department, the Navy and Lake County Regional Office of Education are part of a team that’ll review the proposals and recommend one that should be investigated further.

That process will be followed by a Feb. 2 public hearing. District 187’s board then must make a final decision by March 2.

Prairie Crossing Charter School in Grayslake was the first of its kind in Lake County and has offered an environmentally focused curriculum since 1999. It is within the boundaries of Gurnee-based Woodland Elementary District 50 and Fremont Elementary District 79 in the Mundelein area.

In 2007, Prairie Crossing officials started trying to attract Great Lakes families by providing information about the school, its lottery process for enrollment and other facets of the operation.

At the time, officials said they were encouraging new base arrivals to live within the Woodland or Fremont boundaries so their children would be eligible to attend Prairie Crossing at no extra charge.

Out-of-district tuition is charged to parents who don’t live within the Fremont and Woodland boundaries, but want their children at Prairie Crossing if openings exist. State education officials said the same would apply to the proposed charter school at Great Lakes.  (Read the article in the Daily Herald)


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