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What niche can the Cadott School District offer families?

The Cadott School Board continued to discuss charter school and online options for learning, as they look for ways to give families more options while saving the district money. The discussion took place at a Committee of the Whole meeting, Nov. 30.

Superintendent Jenny Starck reported she attended a charter school grant training session, with the application deadline for the grant in February. The application requires a program description, mission, why they are starting the program and the proposed activities.

“It has to be open to all public school students, because this is connected to a public school,” said Starck.

They also need a governance board and a budget.

The five-year grant has an initial year for planning, then four more years for implementation.

Starck says the focus she has heard from the board, is online learning.

“Because of COVID...are people going to be so tired of online instruction, that they’re going to be really not interested in it, more than before?” asked Starck.

She says she thinks the key is to have something a little more personalized.

Starck says she has also tried to think of other things Cadott could offer that would be a draw, such as the elementary school including foreign language or secondary work-based learning. She says, so far, her focus has been on online learning, since that is the feedback she has gotten from the board.

“If you start, are you fully committed to that five years?” asked Rod Tegels, board president.

Starck says, her understanding is, if the charter school is not sustainable early on, they would not continue to get the grant, but would not have to pay it back.

Board member Becca Blanchette asked about funding after the five-year grant. Starck says the charter should be self-sufficient after the first five years, though there are instances where they could get additional funding, such as if they expanded their grade offerings.

Al Sonnentag, board member, asked where they would have the charter school. Starck said, if it were online, they would just offer a place in the building where students could access it.

Members also saw a cost comparison between eSucceed, the charter school Cadott is a member of through a consortium, and Wisconsin Virtual School (WVS), along with time for board members to get clarification on any other questions about the two they may have. The eSucceed charter school came in at a slightly lower cost.

Starck also used full-time enrollment of Cadott students in eSucceed, to show how staffing for the grades could be broken down, if Cadott were to offer an online option, without a charter.

“Where do we go from here?” asked Tegels.

Tegels said people want more options, but also noted they can’t be the fix-it for everyone.

Starck said, based on the discussion, she was hearing the district should continue with eSucceed for the time being and continue to find the additional options, whether that is online with Cadott staff or a niche not being met by other districts that can serve as a draw.

Blanchette said, if they think the area they are lacking is online, that she doesn’t think a charter will make a difference. She says, if they are going to use the WVS platform, they could save themselves the headache of starting a charter school.

“If we identify that other niche that we’re missing, beyond online options, if we can identify that, then I would say, yes, that would be great,” said Blanchette. “I currently don’t have any idea what that would be.”

Donna Albarado, board member, agreed, and said she thought a work-study focus might be a good niche, but said the board and administration should work together to gather community feedback on needs.

Tegels said he thinks the board should work out a smart goal and a strategic plan, with the administration finding the best platform to reach that goal.

Starck says strategic planning would be a good time to get community feedback on what people are looking for, that Cadott does not currently offer.

In a special meeting held Nov. 25, members also approved allowing use of district facilities. Starck says the administration didn’t feel it made sense to say no one could come to school, but everyone could come after school. When the hybrid system of inperson learning was decided on earlier in the meeting, members voted to continue to allow extra-curricular facility use.

Members also approved the Cloverbelt Conference bylaws for winter sports for all in-conference conference. For non-conference games, Cadott’s athletic director will communicate with the opposing team’s athletic director, to come to a mutual agreement.