Free school gaining steam

Staff Writer

Another inquiry session for the Chicago Free School will take place in Hyde Park next month. Educator Lauren Beitler is interested in launching a school that emphasizes a democratic process in the neighborhood.

Beitler, who is a graduate of the University of Chicago Urban Education Initiative program, will host a Chicago Free School informational meeting from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 4, at Bowers Cooperative House, 5130 S. University Ave., to discuss establishing the Chicago Free School in the Hyde Park, Kenwood or Woodlawn community. Free schools are private, have no principal and everything is decided by a community consensus that includes the students.

Beitler first introduced her idea to the community in November and said she’s expecting to open the school next fall.

“We’re ahead of where I though we’d be,” said Beitler, who said her goal is to start the school with about 60 students.

She said there are currently 40 families who have expressed interest in sending their children to the school. She said several teachers have also said they were interested in working at the school. The committee will begin the hiring process in January.

Beitler and her organizing committee have also been looking for a location for the school.

“We have toured four different locations and will be narrowing down options for a space soon,” Beitler said. “We are looking for a space with the right [number] of classrooms and a large common space for our democratic meetings.”

Beitler said the operating budget would be between $300,000 to $350,000 a year so tuition costs for each student would be $5,000 to $6,000 a year per student. The school plans to offer tuition on a sliding scale based on income.

The organizing committee is in process of creating a website and a video for an online campaign to raise money for the school.

Beitler was a middle school teacher at several school on the South Side, including Amandla Charter School in Englewood.

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