After a lengthy debate over whether to give the Madison Prep Academy for Young Men, an Urban League charter school, a $225,000 planning grant, Madison Board of Education officials decided to stand by their decision to issue the grant.
Previously, the board was hesitant in distributing such a large fund to an all-boys school due to gender equality issues.
However, James Howard, president of the board, said Madison Prep agreed to include a girls component as a stipulation to its boy’s school.
“What we’ve been told is you simply have to offer up a compatible and comparable school for girls,” Howard said. “That’s the essence of it; you have to have the same offer to the girls, and that’s pretty much why the girls component has been offered up at this time.”
Madison school district officials and Madison Board of Education members, as well as school district attorneys, met to discuss these issues Thursday night during a session that was closed to media but open to the public where those who wished to speak could have three minutes on the floor.
Now that the girls component of the academy is on the table, those who attended the meeting discussed the requirements and legality and made a decision as to whether or not they would be able to move forward on the planning grant application, Howard said.
Board Clerk and attorney Ed Hughes said the Board technically authorized the submission of the grant last month, and the meeting Thursday evening was to decide whether or not it had to interfere with that process.
Hughes said the Board decided the Urban League satisfactorily addressed the gender equality issue raised.
Hughes said the new plan includes as many girls as boys to attend the school, a drastic change from the single-sex proposal the Board was presented with in December 2010.
“The original plan called for the first class of students to include 60 sixth-grade boys and 60 seventh-grade boys,” Hughes said. “The new plan is for 60 sixth-grade boys and 60 sixth-grade girls to attend Madison Prep in its first year.”
Each succeeding year there would be an additional class added: half boys, half girls, Hughes said.
Hughes said the basic legalities surrounding gender equity in schools right now are that one may have single sex classrooms and schools, but there must be opportunities for both sexes.
“The people at the state level said that in order for the Madison Prep proposal not to violate the equal opportunity standard, there would have to be programming that was offered to girls at the same basis and starting at the same time,” Hughes said.
Although the Board approved the new equal opportunity plans, Hughes said the proposal will still need to come before the School Board in March for final approval, and there are still some issues that need to be worked out before then.
According to a timeline on the Madison Prep website, if all goes smoothly, the school should open in August 2012.
“I think there are many issues to be resolved,” Hughes said. “I think the proposal is too expensive, but we’ll have to see how it all shakes down.”
-City Editor Sasha Hayman contributed to this report.