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Woodstock District 200 considers Challenger Learning Center acquisition

D-200 considers acquiring program

Woodstock School District 200 officials are considering a plan to acquire Aurora University’s Challenger Learning Center for Science and Technology program.

The university is in the process of expanding its programming and needs the space occupied by the center for other purposes, District 200 Superintendent Mike Moan said at Tuesday’s board meeting. The school would donate the materials needed for the program to the district if officials choose to take it over and relocate it from its existing facility in downtown Woodstock.

Challenger Learning Center, 222 E. Church St., has operated in Woodstock since 2001. The center aims to educate students about science, technology, engineering and math.

The center uses outer space-themed simulated programming to engage students in hands-on learning, according to district documents. The center runs about 300 “missions” a year with students throughout northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin.

Challenger also offers summer camps, field trips and special events such as family science night, according to district documents.

The district would be responsible for the cost of operating the program. Those costs haven’t been made public because negotiations are ongoing, said Kevin Lyons, the district’s communications director.

Moan said at the meeting that the district could recover any investment costs in less than three years as long as it kept up with Challenger’s initiatives and enrollment.

District 200 would potentially house the program at Olson Elementary School, 720 W. Judd St. The layout of Olson also would help ensure that the school and learning center would remain separate entities, Moan said.

“We could wall it off from the school,” Moan said. “I don’t want the main school entrance and the Challenger entrance to be the same.”

The district board didn’t vote on the matter Tuesday but likely will discuss the proposal again at its May 28 meeting.

Catherine Peterson, Aurora University’s dean of the Woodstock location, wasn’t available to comment.

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