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Little Red School has been closed since 2008, but a proposal from Eau Claire school district parents would turn the building into a middle school and nature campus. The school board will hear the proposal for the first time at its Monday night meeting.

Parents behind the proposed Little Red Nature Campus are postponing their grant application until 2019, citing more research that needs to be done before the grant’s impending deadline.

“We just think there’s a lot of information this board will need before you’re willing to authorize the school,” Anna Rybicki, one of the parents involved in the school’s planning, told the Eau Claire school board at its Wednesday meeting. “That authorization is a required component of the grant itself. ... We didn’t feel we could confidently ask for it at this point.”

Postponing the grant application, which would have been due in early March, means potentially pushing back the proposed school’s target opening year from 2019 to 2020.

At a January meeting, school board members voted to allow Initiatives for New Directions in Education, or INDE, to formally develop a proposal for an environmental charter school in the long-empty Little Red School. That vote is different from fully supporting the proposal, which INDE members say is required in order to submit a state Department of Public Instruction grant application that could land the group up to $900,000 in funding.

INDE seeks to gain that approval over the next 12 months by working with the district to flesh out Little Red Nature Campus, Rybicki said. At the meeting, INDE requested some assurances from the board moving forward, including a statement from the board that it wants the charter school to become a reality and a request for cooperation from the district, including access to district staff and resources.

“What it boils down to, is do you want this thing, or do you not want this thing,” Rybicki said. “We know that this community is hungry for choice, and we think this is a choice we could provide them.”

Board members had some hesitations about the assurance requests.

“These assurances are big,” board member Lori Bica said. “They’re full of uncertainty ... I’m really sympathetic, but there would have to be considerable detail provided to these assurances.”

Board member Charles Vue voiced concern about whether the school would serve all students in the district, but board President Chris Hambuch-Boyle said she feels the school would serve all kids by providing learning alternatives to those who would thrive in that context.

“It provides a learning context that is an alternative for students to be successful,” Hambuch-Boyle said. “ ... I look at this as expanding that piece for all kids.”

INDE also presented some updates to the board about its researching process and timeline. To view that presentation visit bit.ly/​2CcdTXA. To learn more about INDE and Little Red Nature Campus, visit inde-ec.org.

Contact: 715-830-5828, lauren.french@ecpc.com, @LaurenKFrench on Twitter