The future of Kentucky’s last-remaining laboratory school is under discussion in Richmond.
More than a hundred parents packed an Eastern Kentucky University meeting room Tuesday night to hear information and offer comments on the school’s future, including the possibility of it becoming a charter school.
For over a hundred years, Model School has educated students from pre-kindergarten through the 12thgrade while serving as a teaching environment for college students pursuing degrees in education.
The current building, opened in the early 1960’s, is showing the wear-and-tear that comes with age. EKU leaders have put a new Model school at the top of their list of priorities.
Parents were invited to weigh in at the informational meeting.
(Parents comments during the meeting:) “I’m hearing two options. I’m hearing tuition increase or charter school.”…. “If if becomes a charter school, how is it different…”… “Help me understand that tuition,”
A group of the university students involved in observational learning at Model attended the parent meeting, including Keeley Foley a 2016 graduate of Richmond’s public high school, Madison Central. She admits her alma mater has amenities not available at Model.
“We have all the new stadiums and greenhouses and all that good stuff. We have the vocational building. Like I mean Central compared to Model, like Model seems like a totally different world.”
More than one Model alum said facility shortcomings at Model did not adversely affect their learning experience.
Eastern administrators estimate the cost of a new building at more than $40 million. They are not counting on any state funding.
One option for funding the construction is a significant tuition increase.
Mike Flynn, who teaches in a neighboring district and has two children at Model, doesn’t see that as viable. “I don’t believe the families at Model now, a lot of them can support a $15,000 tuition,” said Flynn.
Model’s current yearly tuition is about $4000. The semi-private school also receives about $2.2 million from EKU and another $2.3 million in state funding.
Planned-giving was also discussed at the meeting. Brooke Bowman-Mitchell is the mother of a fourth generation Model student.
“I would say the majority of individuals of some wealth in this community either attended Model, had children or grandchildren that attended Model, that if they were approached directly, even knowing that we don’t have a fixed date, a date certain that this building is going to be built, would be willing to make a planned gift or willing to make an immediate gift into a reserve fund,” explained Bowman-Mitchell.
Discussion later in the meeting centered on the possibility of Model becoming a charter school, an option now possible since the passage of state legislation allowing such schools.
Under that approach, tuition would not be required at all, according to Eastern Vice President of Engagement, Regional Stewardship, and Government Relations David McFaddin. In fact, he says, that could take place as early as next fall and speed up construction of a new school.
“If we were to move in a public funded charter direction and we were to have that revenue source would could possibly move forward quickly,” said McFadden. “If we want to move a philanthropic route, we’ve got to demonstrate fundraising that shows that we could service the debt on a new facility.”
For now, more comments about Model’s future will be sought at a Thursday night meeting when alumni, former parents, community, and government representatives will have their chance to weigh in.
Small group interviews are planned over the next week. Then the future of Model School will in the hands of the EKU Board of Regents. Their next meeting is in mid-November.