Schools look to expand Andrews Academy

Posted: Thursday, June 28, 2012 4:00 pm By Hillary Gavan [email protected]

The Roy Chapman Andrews Academy started five years ago in 2007-2008, and the school district is working to expand the program to make it more cost effective. The district is enlisting middle schoolers and are educating teachers more in project-based education.

RCAA is a project-based charter school in the Beloit School District, located in the Hendricks Education Center in the Eclipse Center. Students complete their education through in-depth projects designed around their own interests.

Projects can range from creating one’s own paint to studying unified theories in physics. Service learning projects also are incorporated to give back to the community.

“It’s really a unique opportunity for kids who are more hands-on learners. They still technically get the same standards and outcomes but they do it using a different method,” said Lynee Tourdot, assistant superintendent of instruction for the School District of Beloit.

The school has averaged about 75 to 80 students in its middle and high school programs. There was only one student, though, who graduated in 2008, two in 2009; three in 2010; seven in 2011; and six in 2012.

There are four teachers for RCAA. One of the assistant principals, John Kaminski, will be assigned on a part-time basis to RCAA next year. Eclipse is dissolving as a charter and will combine with the Beloit Learning Academy for next school year.

The students also get access to other programs in the district such as counseling and time with special education teachers if necessary.

Tourdot said the district keeps a close eye on the cost of all programs including RCAA. Once the new construction is completed after the referendum passes, Tourdot said a new location will be found based on space available so the district won’t have to pay for the program’s rent. The rent for the space, which also includes the Eclipse Charter School, is $63,457.

It can be difficult to determine the exact price of the RCAA program to the district because it shares many services with other schools.

The budget for the RCAA program itself is $7,362, not including salaries and fringe benefits and rent for 2011-2012. There was$900,426 paid for all salaries and fringe benefits for 2011-2012 for the entire Eclipse space, which includes the Eclipse charter school.

According to DPI, the total cost per average student in the district is around $11,000 according to data from DPI in 2009-2010, the latest data available.

Approximately $6,504 is spent on each student for 2011-2012 for both programs housed at Eclipse Center, which includes Eclipse and RCAA charter programs.

Janelle Marotz, executive director of business services with the school district, stressed that the $6,504 spent on a student at RCAA doesn’t take into account students’ use of administration time, reading specialists, athletics and more. Use of the services isn’t charged to RCAA, but charged to the districtwide account.

Because the cost isn’t separated out, it can be difficult to determine the actual cost of the RCAA per student although Marotz said it’s comparable to a regular district student.

Tourdot said kids in the program are screened to see if they are a good fit for the program, since they must be motivated to be successful at RCAA.

She said there are many possibilities for more project-based learning in the district, noting teachers at the Beloit Learning Academy and RCAA will be attending trainings on project-based learning.

Students also are required to meet standard requirements by doing online math and science courses to accompany the projects.