GREEN BAY - Despite the summer break, some area private schools are busy. They are preparing for the state to implement the new statewide school vouchers system. But some are concerned about how the program will work.
"I would say that we have a standing chance," said Rev. Dane Radecki of Green Bay Area Catholic Education, or GRACE's chances at being on the state's list of 25 schools open to vouchers. The president of the nine school system says though controversial, a statewide voucher program has the chance to impact many children's lives.
"It's an evolution. It's a controversial evolution," said Radecki of the voucher expansion statewide.
"We have to do the best we can," said Radecki of its implementation. "Given the time given."
How much time is there? Not a lot.
Only 500 Wisconsin students outside of Milwaukee and Racine can be enrolled under the voucher program in the coming school year. According to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, only 25 schools that receive the most voucher applications will participate in the voucher program.
Schools wishing to participate must submit their applications by July 26; the list of schools that meet the voucher program criteria will be released on July 31. Parents will be notified by mid to late August if their child will receive a voucher.
So how will students be selected?
"That's going to be done through a random lottery selection that the school will conduct, based on the number of slots they have available and the number that they're going to be granted if they're one of the 25," explained Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction spokesman Patrick Gasper in a phone interview with FOX 11.
GRACE has nine schools in the Green Bay area. It's grouping its schools into three regions: West, East and South (which includes both Allouez and De Pere).
Each region is being considered as one school in the application process in order to maximize its chances to get the vouchers. Radecki says the grouping also allows for shifting of students, where needed.
Luckily, time is on GRACE's side, as school starts September 3.
But other area schools don't have as much time, like Notre Dame Academy.
Since the Catholic high school is just one school, it can only apply as one school.
School leaders say staff are still trying to figure out how many seats it will have available for vouchers. But time is ticking as the school year starts August 19.
"It's a very small window which makes for a very frenetic process," said Notre Dame's president Bob Pauly of the process for gearing up to accept vouchers, if selected. "You know, we're doing our best."
"Once we get the hang of it, we should be fine."
Pauly says the application process the school has to go through with the state is somewhat confusing and time consuming, saying it's a lot of paperwork, but worth it.
Right now, the school is planning as if it will be on the list of 25. Voucher-hopeful parents will have a nine day window, starting August 1 to apply to Notre Dame.
Other private schools in the area, like Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Grade School in Pulaski, have decided to stay out of the voucher process completely.
Diocesan officials say smaller, more rural schools would have a difficult time landing on the list of 25.
GRACE and Notre Dame are holding voucher information meetings for parents, to help them navigate the process.
The first is Thursday night at 7:00 at St. Thomas More School in Green Bay. If you can't make that one, there will be one next Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at Notre Dame.
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