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Kaneland won’t continue in blended learning consortium

Batavia to discuss issue at Jan. 28 meeting

SUGAR GROVE – The Kaneland School District 302 Board on Monday night voted against remaining in an online and blended learning consortium of school districts as the group moves into the second phase of its project.

Board members heard from Erika Schlichter, the district’s director of educational services for sixth through 12th grade.

Schlichter, Kaneland’s representative in the consortium, reported that the cost for the second phase would be significantly higher than what previously was expected – $96,450.

The board voted against moving to the next phase, by a 5-2 vote. Board members Gale Pavlak and Peter Lopatin voted to continue in the consortium.

Kaneland was to be part of the consortium, which also includes the Batavia, Wheaton-Warrenville, Naperville and Indian Prairie school districts.

The plan calls for the districts to work together to offer online learning opportunities, which Kaneland leaders touted as an opportunity to expand district curriculum.

Brad Newkirk, chief academic officer for Batavia School District 101, said in an email that Batavia’s school board will consider the plan and move forward with the consortium at its Jan. 28 meeting.

“Kaneland’s decision not to continue with the consortium may impact the cost” for the remaining districts, he wrote. “The member districts will have to process through the impact of this on the consortium’s strategic plan.”

In the first phase of the project, in which the task was to study the issue and develop goals, the districts’ costs were proportional to their enrollments, and Kaneland, as the smallest district, paid the least. Kaneland Superintendent Jeff Schuler indicated that the second phase would not be priced in the same way.

“Everybody’s share in phase two is a lot closer in amount,” he said. Schuler said the district did not have an indication about pricing for the second phase until last month.

Schuler said the district will continue to seek opportunities to expand its online learning options.

Schuler told board members that the consortium was “not the only way to get there,” but that it “absolutely is the one in front of us right now.”

Board member Teresa Witt said it was “unfortunate” that she could not support moving into the second phase. She pointed to cuts the district already has made, as well as ongoing negotiations with the teacher’s union. She told administrators that “I have faith in you guys to seek out opportunities.”

“We have a lot of balls in the air, and we don’t know where they are going to land,” Witt said. “We’ve eliminated things that didn’t come back. … It’s with regret that I don’t feel I can support it.”

Lopatin said he understood it would be difficult to spend money “on something we’re not sure about.” But he called on administrators to speak more on the vision for the plan, with enthusiasm.

“I would like a much more impassioned defense to the board,” he said.

Schuler said the opportunity would include expanding curriculum offerings beyond what could be offered now. He said it would allow the districts to personalize the learning experience for students. And he said it would provide “a new path” for learning, providing a chance for increased collaboration with students outside of the district.

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