Chartering a new course for education in Elgin (Sun-Times Media)

by Emily McFarlan Miller

This is part one of a two-part series about the first five years of the area’s one charter school — and the possibility of starting another.

PINGREE GROVE — On the drizzly, foggy Friday before spring break, preschool and kindergarten students ran in circles in the common area of one of four academic buildings at Cambridge Lakes Charter School in Pingree Grove. They hopped on one foot.

One boy walked on his hands. A group of girls made a ring around a teacher.

“Now find an orange square!” said Whitney Orlando, a preschool teacher.

Somebody switched off the radio, and the school’s smallest students sprinted for the orange-colored tiles in the floor.

“And freeze!”

Freeze-dancing teaches coordination and colors, Orlando said.

Playing together with the charter school’s kindergarten classes gives students at Cambridge Lakes Preschool a chance to get to know the kindergarten teachers before they move to the school on the same campus, she said. It shows them what the kindergartners are up to, she said.

And, the preschool teacher said, “Friday is a good day to get the kids moving a little bit.”


Cambridge Lakes Charter School’s full-day kindergarten program was one of the more “forward-thinking” ideas in its original charter proposal, according to Tom Hay, assistant superintendent for instructional services — teaching and learning in Comichaelmmunity Unit School District 300.

That program, in which 138 students are enrolled, definitely has been a benefit to the western part of the Carpentersville-based school district, Hay said.

And the school, one of only three charter schools in the Chicago suburbs, definitely has been a benefit to the Pingree Grove community, according to Pingree Grove Village President Greg Marston.

The success of some charter schools, like Pingree Grove’s, is why Elgin is discussing the benefits of attracting a charter school to its school district as the Elgin City Council and city staff formulate a strategic plan to direct the city over the next five years.

“It’s a relatively modern concept: Could this be an option for (District) U46?” Elgin City Councilwoman Anna Moeller said.

For the rest of the story, read Chartering a new course for education in Elgin (Sun-Times Media).

Photo credit: Michael Smart for Sun-Times Media.