When we last left New Heights Charter opening in Brockton, they were asking for a change to their charter for fewer days, because they didn't have a building that was going to be ready on time. They also didn't have anywhere near the projected enrollment, despite that purported silent need being the reason the majority of the Board of Ed voted in favor of it. This was covered by Diane Ravitch in a post yesterday.
The Brockton Enterprise has now reported that the shorter school year has been granted (by the Commissioner, not the Board of Ed), and they've come to some rather expensive resolution of the building issue:
Jacqueline Reis, a spokesperson for the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, said on Friday that state officials believe that New Heights Charter School of Brockton will now open at 1690 Main St. The new proposed location is the former Verizon division headquarters, which was sold earlier this year for $960,000, to a company called 1690 Main Street LLC...The charter school previously said that it would open on August 23 at 141 Main St., in the Tuxedo’s by Merian building, following renovation financed by a $575,000 loan to make the property code compliant with Massachusetts education standards...Walker previously said that the charter school would pay $893 per student annually for five years to rent out a 30,000-square-foot school space in the Tuxedos by Merian building in the center of the downtown area. With 315 students expected for the first year, from grades six through eight, the lease could be as high as $281,295 to begin with.So there's a $575,000 loan for renovations plus $281,295 rent on the 141 Main Street building ('though one would hope that some of the rent might be waived if the school isn't actually occupying the building). They then are renting the 1690 Main Street building (and from whom? Is that group associated with the school?) for some sum of money, a building which, given that it was an office building is probably also going to need at least some renovation in order to be a school. They're doing all of this out of a $4M annual budget, with an additional $250,000 of fundraising from the state charter association.
Here's why this in particular is a concern: financial management has been a weakness of charter schools in the past, and, in particular, buildings and renovations are among what sunk Spirit of Knowledge here in Worcester.