Marathon City plans to open charter school - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Marathon City plans to open charter school

 By Anna Carrera - bio | email | Twitter | Facebook

MARATHON CITY (WAOW) -- Lots of districts have been jumping on the charter school bandwagon lately and Marathon City is next in line. Their school district plans to open their doors for the Marathon Venture Academy for the 2011-2012 school year.

"We thought that kids lacked engagement in what we were studying and we thought the traditional sit and get was very difficult for them to follow," said Marathon Elementary and Middle School Principal Jeff Reiche.

A federal grant helps them get started. With a $225,000 federal grant for their planning year, and another $225,000 possible in the future, Reiche hopes the school can turn their dreams into reality.

The building that currently houses both the elementary and middle schools will also be the home of the new Marathon Venture Academy. Reiche said the academy will probably take the place of the middle school on the top level of the building.

Reiche said 80% of the grant would be used for teacher training. He said the four teachers who currently work at the middle school level would transition to the charter school.

"You're getting good bang for your buck by investing in teacher education," said Reiche.

By using expeditionary learning, Reiche said students will have a better opportunity to succeed. According to Reiche, parents get the final say on where they want their kids to go to school.

"Charter schools are first and foremost schools of choice so no one can be forced to go to a charter school," said John Gee, the executive director of the Wisconsin Charter Schools Association.

According to Gee, families always have the choice of whether or not they want their kids to go to a charter school. Any students who decide they don't want to go to the charter school will have another option to choose from. Gee said other charter schools in the area have been successful, but in order to have that opportunity, each school has a lot of responsibility.

"A charter school is meant to have a lot of autonomy so they can innovate," said Gee. "In exchange for that autonomy, they accept some very strict accountability."

Gee said if charter schools don't have enough independence from their districts, the students may not get the opportunities they need. But Reiche is optimistic and he said he hopes this will be a natural transition for students.

"It challenges our teachers, there's no doubt, and we think it challenges our kids and makes them a little bit more responsible and engaged in their learning," said Reiche.

Gee said there are more than 200 charter schools operating in the state with more planning to open in the future. He said in many cases, charter schools are out-performing their traditional counterparts. But in order to be successful, they need to maintain their autonomy from their districts.

Online Reporter: Anna Carrera

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