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An overlook of the Idaho valley in Upper Carmen Idaho

Challenges in making new school facilities in Idaho a reality

By Terry Ryan
The Building Hope Annual Report has just been released and it makes for interesting reading for those who want to know more about the challenges facing charter public schools as they open new facilities.
Building Hope, a Washington, DC-based non-profit charter school facilities finance and support organization has been operating in Idaho since 2013. The organization’s president Joseph Bruno sits on the boards of both the Idaho Charter School Network and Bluum and has been an important partner in the efforts underway in Idaho to grow quality charter schools.
Included below is a excerpt from the report on one of their “2015-2016 School Year Facilities Financing Success Stories” about Connor Academy in Chubbuck:

Joel Lovstedt’s charter school has long outgrown its leased space, a 1930s-era building in Pocatello, Idaho. Lovstedt had ambitious plans for a new facility twice as large – one that boasted a gym instead of a coal cellar. But every time Lovstedt approached a bank, he got the same response: “To them, we were basically a small business. They were willing to help us until they found out we didn’t have any equity or credit rating. It was discouraging.”

That’s when Building Hope stepped in. Partnering with the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation, Building Hope secured financing, including a $2.26 million direct loan, to build a new, $6.4 million facility a few miles away. In August, Connor Academy Charter School welcomed nearly 500 students, up from 276 a year earlier, with a wait list of some 200 names. The new, two-story facility has a gym, a science lab and 25 classrooms that are two-thirds larger than before.

“I could never have done this on my own,” says Principal Lovstedt. “I’m a school administrator. I can tell you how to teach and maintain discipline, but I don’t know how to get a loan for a new building.”

He says Building Hope encouraged him to dream big, asking if the design plans were sufficient. “They asked, ‘is this the best layout possible to give you an outstanding school? There’s no point in sacrificing to have a mediocre building.”

The result, Lovestedt says, is “a model school, a jewel.”

To read the full report click here.

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