A new public charter school that will use nature as the basis of instruction is expected to open in the Mondovi school district for the 2020-21 academic year.
The Mondovi school board on Thursday unanimously approved a motion to allow Initiatives for New Directions in Education, or INDE, to develop a charter school to be housed at the former Anthony Elementary School, which previously held the district’s 4-year-old kindergartners.
“Offering another opportunity to experience education and learning is always something we want to do,” Mondovi schools Superintendent Greg Corning said. “Our board has been interested in moving and looking at some project-based learning opportunities in the district for quite some time.”
INDE, a grass-roots organization that aims to create and develop alternative education environments in the Chippewa Valley, is also behind the proposal to transform the former Little Red School in Eau Claire into the Little Red Nature Campus. The public charter school would aim to provide project-based, outdoor learning-focused education to the Eau Claire school district.
That project was put on hold at an Eau Claire school board meeting in February, pending further research and planning regarding the school.
Because of some of the challenges INDE has faced in making Little Red Nature Campus happen as quickly as the group would’ve liked, gaining approval for the school in Mondovi is particularly exciting, said Anna Rybicki, community relations coordinator of INDE.
“Regardless of what happens with the Little Red proposal, we wanted to advocate for this kind of education,” Rybicki said. “It was really refreshing to find a district that wants this kind of opportunity for their students and that is ready for this development. This seemed like a door that was opening now, and we figured as a group that if we believe in this kind of education, then we believe in it, and if Mondovi is ready now, why not jump in and get a start on this project?”
Rybicki said the idea for the school began in 2017, when members of INDE heard that Anthony Elementary School had closed about six months ago at that time.
Members began conversing with the district to see if they had plans for the school, which sits on about 36 acres of field and forest and seemed like the perfect location for the kind of education, focused on the outdoors, they were hoping to offer.
It turned out there were no plans for Anthony Elementary School at that time, and members of the school board had been interested in creating a charter school for about 10 years before INDE approached them.
“It was just a great partnership,” Rybicki said.
INDE is forming a formal planning team. In the next several months, INDE is planning to apply for a variety of grants through the state Department of Public Instruction and continue other preparation efforts for the proposed September 2020 school opening, Rybicki said.
“It’s exciting for our district; it’s exciting for the INDE group; it’s exciting for kids that might be able to take advantage of it, too,” Corning said of the plan. “We have staff members that are also excited about this unique experience to teach students in a different way.”