Rhinelander secondary charter school ends its 13-year run
BY EILEEN PERSIKE
One of the longest-operating secondary charter schools in the state closed its doors for good June 6. Northwoods Community Secondary School (NCSS), which welcomed its first students in the fall of 2004, was a School District of Rhinelander project-based learning alternative to traditional school.
“It was identified as a need,” said former NCSS principal Wil Losch. “We needed to have 21st Century teaching methods. And there was a lot of federal grant money available at that time, for setting up innovative charter schools.”
The School District of Rhinelander Board of Education voted in April to dissolve the school after it became clear that recent state statute changes regarding charter school contracts, dwindling enrollment and other factors would make continuing the secondary school difficult. For 2017 NCSS graduate Abbee Lane, the news hit hard.
“I started at NCES (which is not closing) as a kindergartener,” Lane said. “I love this school and the relationship you are able to have with all the teachers. We knew it would be closing, but not this soon.”
“I am most grateful for the trust given to us as teachers to create a school.” -Wil Losch, NCSS principal
Eighth-graders Karissa Thurn and Joyce Hauser said they were both planning to attend Rhinelander High School next year, regardless.
“The reason I am sad about it – my younger friends, I won’t be able to see them,” Hauser said. “This is such a great environment it makes me sad that other kids won’t get to experience it like I got to.”
Thurn said she transferred to NCSS to find new friends, and found family instead.
“We’re all really connected, which can be a blessing and a curse,” Thurn said with a smile. “And we’re like family, which is also a blessing and a curse.”
Different teaching and learning methods have been adopted at James Williams Middle School and Rhinelander High School, including the implementation of Universal Design for Learning (UDL). Losch, who was involved in the charter school development since it began, said he would like to think NCSS staff and students had a hand in bringing about that change. Looking back, he said, it was good experience.
“I am most grateful for the trust given to us as teachers to create a school” said Losch. “I will be forever grateful to have had that opportunity in my career. I’m also proud that the community supported an innovative charter school for 13 years. Not many communities can say that – it was a good run.”
NCSS staff will be moved to teaching positions within the district. Losch said he is looking forward to bringing some of the teaching methods he learned at NCSS into the classroom when he joins the Rhinelander High School social studies department.
Northwoods Community Elementary School is not closing and will remain as a charter school until its contract expires in 2019.