Two Columbus charter schools will get state money to expand

August 20, 2016

The Columbus Dispatch
August 20, 2016

Two high-performing Columbus charter schools are among eight statewide to receive a first-ever state grant to help renovate and expand their buildings.

Columbus Collegiate Academy West will receive $1.7 million to renovate its aging school building in Franklinton, and Patriot Preparatory Academy on the East Side will build a 17,000-square-foot addition.

"It’s a historic moment for us and really for charter schools in general in Ohio," said Collegiate Academy head Andrew Boy.

Charter schools have historically struggled with funding facilities. The state legislature set aside $25 million for facilities grants, but restricted them to schools and operators with proven track records of receiving high grades on state report cards. As a result, only 19 existing Ohio charter schools qualified to apply out of almost 400 statewide.

Schools had to match the grants dollar for dollar.

Patriot Prep took out a loan for the match, said Superintendent Sean Smith. The K-12 school, open seven years, plans to grow from 575 students to 775 students over the next four years, a requirement of the grant. The new addition will add classrooms, science labs, restrooms, a teacher lounge and other amenities, he said.

Columbus Collegiate West, one of two charters Boy operates in Columbus, raised most of the matching grant through a fund-raising effort with the Columbus Foundation, Boy said. The school itself will kick in about $350,000, he said. The money will install a new roof and energy-efficient windows, install an elevator and new restrooms, science labs and a fine-arts center.

"We want to show the state and show everyone what we can do with this investment,” Boy said.

Thirteen charters statewide applied for grants but five were denied. Meanwhile, the state did not award $8 million of the $25 million available. Included in those denied funding was Columbus Preparatory Academy, consistently rated one of the top-performing charters in Columbus.

After meeting academic requirements that were certified by the Ohio Department of Education, the charters were also given scores based upon their "educational function," their finances and their building plans, said Rick Savors, spokesman for the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission, which oversees the building projects. The five projects denied funding did not meet the minimum cutoff scores, Savors said.

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