Kaneland D302 to open ‘IgKnight Academy’ in 2023-2024 school year

Kaneland School District 302 is planning to open the Kaneland IgKnight Personalized Learning Academy in the fall of 2023 for students in fourth through eighth grades.

It will be located in the former middle school building, which also houses the Fox Valley Career Center.

Laura Garland, the district’s personalized learning coordinator, said the academy will provide a less structured, more student-led education. She said a traditional, structured learning environment works well for many students, but is not good for others. The goal of the academy is to provide an alternate form of learning for students who want a more personalized, interdisciplinary experience in their education.

“Traditional education isn’t meeting the needs of all students anymore. We know that while conventional education practices with a high level of instruction and guidance work for some students, we know there are other students who learn and grow in different ways and we’re acknowledging that. Students will have more of a say [in their education], rather than solely teacher-driven,” she said.

While no two personalized education plans will look the same, the curricular components and learning standards will remain the same for academy students, Garland said. The difference will be in how those students arrive at the proficiency benchmark. However, their school days will look different than students in the traditional schools.

“The academy won’t have a traditional bell schedule and time-bound constraints will be removed,” she said. “In traditional school, there are content-based, time-bound components. At the academy, students could have a six-week period of time to learn content standards and the goals will be co-created by the student and teacher. This is about what type of learning experience a student is seeking.”

Initially, the academy will accept about 50 fourth and fifth graders and 150 sixth through eighth graders. Fourth and fifth graders will be grouped together in a pod concept, as will the middle school students. While the initial offering is limited to just those five grade levels, Garland said each subsequent year the district plans to offer an additional year of high school through 12th grade, so students who start at the academy in eighth grade can remain there throughout high school. All academy students will be able to participate in all Kaneland sports, clubs and extracurricular activities.

Garland said the district hopes to reallocate as many teachers as possible from the district’s schools to the academy, but may need to hire outside the district, depending on the enrollment.

“Once we know the number of students, that will help dictate final staffing numbers,” she said.

Planning for the academy began in the fall of 2020 with a steering committee that researched other districts that have implemented this type of personalized learning program. One thing the committee discovered is that no two programs look the same, she said.

“We think of this as the seventh Kaneland school. I don’t want to say this is better than any other Kaneland school, it’s just different,” Garland said. “Not every student would thrive in an IgKnight environment, so parents just need to know what their student needs. We’re looking for students who are willing to try different things.”

Many details still have yet to be finalized, based in part on the number of students enrolled. There is no additional cost to attend the academy, and the application process will begin next winter, Garland said.

Kaneland Superintendent Todd Leden said in an email the academy will allow students and families to choose a learning model that would be a better fit for their learning style while remaining in the Kaneland school district.

“The goals for the academy are to provide the same course content as all Kaneland students receive from Kaneland teachers in a different learning structure, to expand the academy to add one additional level per year through the inclusion of 12th grade, and to provide an additional opportunity for students to connect to the community in an expanded manner,” Leden said.

The district will hold its first informational session for parents from 6 to 7 p.m. April 26 at Harter Middle School. Garland said the goal is to introduce families to the academy and share information. Any district student can apply to attend the IgKnight Academy.

Kaneland will offer more informational sessions later in the year, as well as tours of the academy, Garland said.