Clarksdale Collegiate Public Charter School hired the consulting firm Level Field Partners to help finance projects to for new facilities and to eventually purchase the property from St. Paul’s United Methodist Church on West Second Street.
St. Paul’s United Methodist Church recently merged with First United Methodist Church on East Second Street. The church is using FUMC’s facility making it possible for the charter school to purchase St. Paul’s United Methodist Church’s property.
“We’re still waiting our final contract and all that, but they’re (Level Field Partners) working,” said Chuck Rutledge, Clarksdale Collegiate Public Charter School board member and facilities committee chair, during Monday’s board meeting.
Rutledge said he and Clarksdale Collegiate Public Charter School executive director Amanda Johnson have talked to David Endom from Level Field Partners on the phone about putting a budget together and scrutinizing where the project is headed. He said Endom put together feasibility numbers based on the financing structure.
Rutledge said Level Field Partners, based out of Washington D.C., specializes in helping charter schools finance facilities.
“I feel like they’re a really good source for us,” Rutledge said “They were a good selection. This is just preliminary. I just want to give you the magnitude of things. These numbers will change.”
Rutledge said, based on initial numbers the facility additions should be an estimated $7.5 million project.
“With the financing structure that is out in the market for charter schools, lenders do not lend 100 percent of a project cost,” Rutledge said. “Different lenders will lend different amounts as a percentage, but based on what David’s preliminary assessment is, we would need to come up with about $1.2 million if our project is a $7.5 million project.”
Rutledge said things are still being worked out with purchasing the church. He noted at a previous board meeting that costs to add facilities will help determine how much the school has to purchase St. Paul’s United Methodist Church’s property.
He said he hopes the purchase is completed no later than June 2020. The board authorized the staff and the facilities committee to negotiate with the church about purchasing the property during executive session.
Rutledge he hopes a new building will be fully constructed by the beginning of the 2021-22 academic year, so the school has enough space for all of the students enrolled in kindergarten through fifth grade.
The school currently has students in kindergarten through third grade. Kindergarteners through fourth graders will be enrolled during the 2020-21 school year. One grade will be added each year until the school has students in kindergarten through eighth grade.
The plan is to eliminate the modular classrooms currently located in the school’s parking lot once the new facility is built.
Rutledge said the goal is to have all facilities built by around 2023. He explained the facilities are not being built at one time because they could not be supported financially without more students enrolled.
“We’re trying to balance it out, so if we finish in 2021, we’re going to have a bunch of classrooms that sit vacant until we get those kids in those years,” Rutledge said.
Rutledge said community contributions will be needed to help finance the facilities.
“We know we’re going to have to contribute funds to this facilities project and so Amanda is already beginning to reach out to philanthropic sources for this component of our financing,” he said. “We’re just trying to move all of these things parallel. That process is starting as well.”
Johnson said the school is enrolling students for the upcoming school year. There are 75 spots available for kindergarten and limited spots available in first through fourth grade. While no construction will be necessary to accommodate all of the students in 2020-21, some rearrangements will have to be made.
“We have to find a new space for the teacher workroom, for example, which will be easy to do,” Johnson said. “We just have to make sure we’re using every space that could be a classroom is a classroom.”
The board approved hiring the Office of Jonathan Tate out of New Orleans to do preliminary architecture work on the project for a maximum of $12,500.
“We need to get started on some preliminary architecture that will help us select the architect that will actually do the job and we’ll select a contractor,” Rutledge said.
Rutledge said since there is not any time to waste, the preliminary architecture needs to start while Endom is looking for lenders to finance the facilities.
Tate will figure out how many square feet is needed for each facility, including the cafeteria, library, classrooms and outdoor space. Some of the other work will be putting together the schematic design, laying out the building on site and zoning work analysis.
“We don’t have time to go out and get competitive bids for that,” Rutledge said. “We think this is the most expeditious way.”
Rutledge did disclose to the board Jonathan Tate was his architect partner in putting together the Travelers Hotel in downtown Clarksdale.
Once the preliminary work is completed, there will be a full-blown search for an architect to do the remainder of the work.
“We don’t have to bid any of it, but we will because our internal policies require that we get multiple prices,” Rutledge said.
“He (Tate) is interested in being the architect of the school, but he will have to compete for the big job.”