Education | Kane County Chronicle

Registration now open for Kaneland’s IgKnight Academy for 2023-2024 school year

The interior of the Kaneland IgKnight Academy is shown. The academy will open to students next fall.

Registration is open for Kaneland students who are interested in attending the new IgKnight Personalized Learning Academy next year.

The new school, which is located in the former middle school building on the Kaneland High School campus, will open to students in fourth through eighth grades next fall.

Registration will remain open until Oct. 31. If the academy is not at full capacity, another registration window will open next month until capacity is reached. Everyone who registers this month will be guaranteed a spot, said Laura Garland, the district’s personalized learning coordinator.

The interior of the new Kaneland IgKnight Academy is shown. The school will open to students in the fall of 2023.

As of Oct. 6, 47 students had enrolled. The academy has space for 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.

The academy is open to any Kaneland student and there is no enrollment criteria to attend, Garland said.

“We’ve reached nearly a quarter of our capacity within the first week,” she said. “That is a very promising start. I think [the academy] is a unique learning structure that’s not necessarily available to other students in Kane County. There’s a sense of pride that Kaneland is able to bring this concept to fruition. It’s a unique experience we’re able to offer our community.

Garland 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.

The interior of the new Kaneland IgKnight Academy is shown. The school will open to students in the fall of 2023.

The “what you’re learning” is consistent, but the “how you’re learning it” is different, she said.

“The biggest points we’re looking to drive home are that students are responsible for reaching proficiency in the same standards as all Kaneland students regardless of the building they’re in,” she said. “The content the students are learning and the expectations are the same. The ‘how’ is driven by student interest and the sequence of skills and pacing is different. The students will have a voice in determining how they learn and how they demonstrate proficiency.”

School days will be different for academy students. Students will be in school the same amount of hours each day and will have content requirements within a given week, but their days won’t be separated into 50-minute schedules, Garland said.

The interior of the Kaneland IgKnight Academy is shown. The school will open to students in the fall of 2023.

Students also will be working on time management and executive functioning skills to manage their days to accomplish what they need to each week, she said.

“Students can decide how much time they’ll spend on a particular subject on a particular day based on where they are in their learning,” she said. “But at the end of each week, [time spent on a particular subject] will need to accumulate to meet the minimum content minute requirements. They’ll just have more flexibility during their [school] day.”

While the initial offering is limited to just fourth through eighth grade levels, Garland said the district plans to offer an additional year of high school through 12th grade each subsequent year. Students who start the academy as eighth graders in the fall can remain there throughout high school, if they choose.

All academy students will be able to participate in 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.

“We’ve identified the total number of staff we’d need for max capacity, but right now we’re seeking feedback from current Kaneland teachers about who has an interest in teaching in the academy,” she said.

Superintendent Todd Leden said a benefit of the academy is that families can choose a learning model that is a better fit for their student while remaining in the Kaneland school district.

“Personalized learning is a major focus of Kaneland Connects also and while the academy will provide for a great level of opportunity to personalize their learning, all Kaneland schools will continue to focus on personalized learning for all students,” he said.

Garland said she’s excited about the academy opening, but also looks forward to the district’s plan for expanding personalized learning for all students.

“It’s not just the academy, but we’re looking to grow that philosophy across all Kaneland schools,” she said. “So many students want to have a more active role in their education and more choices and options. We’re hearing so much from students who are advocating for their needs. The need [for more personalized learning] is certainly there.”

Informational sessions about the IgKnight Personalized Learning Academy will be held from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Oct. 20 and Nov. 17 at the academy. Students and families who are interested in learning more are invited to attend. Tours of the academy will be provided.