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University Lab School would share services under proposal

A former administration building designed by Alexander Eschweiler stands solid but in disrepair and vandalized. The University Laboratory School hopes to renovate the building to use for classes.

A former administration building designed by Alexander Eschweiler stands solid but in disrepair and vandalized. The University Laboratory School hopes to renovate the building to use for classes.

June 17, 2014

Wauwatosa students could have the opportunity to enroll in a science- and math-based charter school, or take advantage of some of its programming, as soon as the fall of next year if the Wauwatosa School Board approves an operating agreement recommended by Superintendent Phil Ertl.

Under the agreement, which is the result of several closed-door discussions, the district would supply one teacher for every 26 students enrolled through Wauwatosa schools with the charter school, The University Laboratory School (TULS). The school would be run by the Forest Exploration Center, under a charter with the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Tom Gaertner, a spokesman for the Forest Exploration Center, said approval of the agreement would be a major step forward for the school, which is trying to raise enough money to renovate its future home in the Eschweiler Buildings on Innovation Campus.

"Major funders have been saying, we like your concept, but do you have an agreement?" Gaertner said. "Everybody wants to know if we have that. This doesn't guarantee we will be successful, but we wouldn't be without it."

With about $500,000 raised so far, the group is still far from its goal of $2.4 million to cover the renovation of just one of the buildings, the school's director, Danny Goldberg, said, adding that TULS expects to get another $3.3 million from historic tax credits.

Ertl said the charter school would have no net fiscal impact on the district because the district would continue to receive funding for all students, including those who went to TULS.

Expanding options

Although the school board has, in the past, been skeptical of the charter school's impact on the district, Ertl said he thinks the agreement will be good for the district, providing students an alternative education path.

"We are looking for other options at all times, and this will just be another option for parents and students," he said.

Under the agreement, students who are interested in programming at TULS but remain in the traditional schools would be able to take part in after-school activities there. Similarly, students at TULS would be able to participate in district extra-curriculars and sports.

The proposal also would allow district teachers to access TULS curriculum and professional development opportunities.

District could become authorizer

The final provision of the proposal gives the district the right to become the authorizer of TULS after three years. The school is pursuing a charter with UWM that would cover the first three years.

According to the proposal, the district would have to preserve the "integrity and autonomy" of the school as much as possible in a charter contract. Ertl said this change would not likely have a fiscal impact on the district.

The school board is expected to vote on the agreement at its next meeting, 7 p.m. June 23 in the Fisher Building, 12121 W. North Ave.

Next Step

What: Wauwatosa School Board meeting

When: 7 p.m. June 23

Where: Fisher Building, 12121 W. North Ave.

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