2/5/17 • Madison, Wisconsin • Isthmus Montessori Academy, in a story MontessoriPublic has been following here and here, has received approval from the Madison School Board for its long-standing plan to convert from a private school to a district charter. However, the Board delayed the conversion until the 2018-19 school year, rather than the fall 2017 opening originally sought. This would be the first public Montessori school in Madison.
Isthmus was founded as a private school in 2012 with the explicit intention of becoming a public program. Wisconsin law allows for two types of charter schools: district charters, operated by school districts, and independents, run by outside operators. Madison has been cautious about approving charters. No independent charters have been approved in Madison, while Milwaukee, by contrast, supports more than two dozen. Madison does operate three in-district charters.
This caution has been evident in the charter approval process for Isthmus. Discussions with the school district began in 2012, when the school was opened. The first official proposal was made in 2014, but was tabled by the school board in a contentious political climate. However, meetings and conversations continued, and in September 2016, another formal proposal went before the board. Tentative approval was granted, but the board asked for more detail. In meetings in January 2017, the board delved into details of Isthmus’ application, questioning aspects of the lottery, funding, and enrollment projections, but they ultimately decided to approve the proposal, with a one-year delay to allow the school leaders to work with the district on resolving the remaining issues.