BELOIT—The University of Wisconsin, Office of Educational Opportunity (OEO) issued a conditional approval of the charter school application for The Lincoln Academy on May 15.

The approval is a key milestone in the authorization and contract process, according to a press release from Kids First Beloit.

Enrollment will begin in January. Those interested in getting more information can sign up on the Kids First Beloit website, Additional information about community and parent information sessions will be released in the coming weeks.

The Lincoln Academy is a proposed 4K to grade 12 independent public charter school scheduled to open in September 2021. Plans call for enrollment to begin in January 2021 for students in grades 4K-2 and 7-9. Two grades will be added each subsequent year. Fully enrolled, the school will serve 700 students annually.

Kids First Beloit is looking to build the school near the former Kohl’s building at the Eclipse Center complex. The building currently is being demolished by Hendricks Commercial Properties. The charter school is planned to be a public school—not a private choice, or voucher, school. Although charter schools may be authorized through their local school districts, the one proposed by Kids First Beloit has applied to be authorized through the University of Wisconsin System. If authorized as an independent charter, the school would receive state aid in the amount of $8,619 per student.

The Lincoln Academy model is planned to blend rigorous academics and strong character development with embedded career exploration and experience, beginning in elementary school.

“The mission of the school is to ensure that all graduates of The Lincoln Academy leave high school ready to be productive and informed citizens who lead choice-filled lives,” said Diane Hendricks, chair of ABC Supply and board chair of Kids First Beloit Inc.

Kids First Beloit is the charter applicant for The Lincoln Academy. The organization is a not-for-profit corporation incubated by Beloit 200 to improve educational outcomes in the City of Beloit. Beloit 200 started this effort in 2017 with an in-depth analysis of educational performance in the City of Beloit.

“The data was compelling,” Hendricks said. “It was clear that we needed change, and after much consideration we decided change needed to come in the form of a new public alternative for children and families in the city.”

“As a city and a region, quality schools are critical to the growth and expansion of our employer base, and enhance our collective ability to attract and retain a talented workforce for the future,” says Gerry Behan, President & CEO of Kerry North America and Vice President of Beloit 200.

Kids First Beloit and The Lincoln Academy Launch team held dozens of information sessions prior to submission of the charter application in February. Nearly 300 individuals signed petitions in support of the application.

Dr. Kristi Cole will lead The Lincoln Academy as Chief Education Officer and formally begins that role on Aug. 1.

She has been involved in a consultative role since August and will continue that work as she transitions from her current role as Chief Operating Officer of Milwaukee College Prep, a high performing urban charter network in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Hendricks quotes the school’s name-sake, President Abraham Lincoln, in explaining her own commitment to the school.

“Upon the subject of education…I can only say that I view it as the most important subject which we as a people can be engaged in. I intend to work diligently with the many community members who have committed themselves to making this school a reality. Together, we will build a school of excellence for the City of Beloit and most important, we will create hope and opportunity for our children.”

The Kids First Beloit, Inc. Board of Directors, or formation board consists of: Diane Hendricks, chair; Tim McKevett, vice chair; David McCoy, treasurer; Lisa Furseth, secretary; and Gerry Behan, Joe Stadelman and Rob Gerbitz.

The Community Advisory Committee consists of Pastor Dannie Evans, Pastor Sherrick Anderson and First Lady Lahoma Anderson, J’Juan Winfield, Yvette Hereford, Gaby Rojas and Mark Smith.

The Lincoln Academy Launch Team consists of the combined Beloit 200 education committee, Kids First Beloit Board and the Community Advisory Committee. A subset of the full group participated in the formal authorization interview with University of Wisconsin Office of Educational Opportunity as well as work such as the interview and selection of the CEO.

The charter application calls for a transition to the formal Governing Board that will oversee operation of the school no later than spring of 2021. The Launch Team will serve as the nominating committee for the selection of the governing board.