Loan will help school enhance facilities, leadership education programs
By Mike McCombs
The Island News
Beaufort Academy announced Thursday night, Feb. 23, that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has approved a $40 million loan to the school which will be used to completely transform Beaufort Academy’s programs and facilities for the benefit of students, educators, and the community.
The announcement that the loan was officially a “done deal” was made by Beaufort Academy Board President and Chair of the USDA Application Committee Katie Huebel in front of a small gathering of alumni, parents and friends of BA in the gymnasium.
“It’s transformative,” Huebel said after the reception. “It immediately changes the trajectory of our school.”
In a statement released by the school, Huebel lays it out.
“In an ever-changing, fast-paced world, Beaufort Academy is committed to developing well-rounded, open-minded critical thinkers that are prepared to be the problem-solvers and leaders of the future. To do that, we must continue to foster world-class education, inclusion, and collaboration. The USDA Loan gives us the opportunity to become a state-wide leader in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) learning and a national model for leadership education.”
“It allows us to completely refurbish our campus,” Huebel emphasized. “A state-of-the-art multipurpose building with STEAM classrooms, a new security system, a 100-bed high school dormitory,” she added. “The multipurpose building means a new practice gym, a performing arts center. (The building) opens up to a green space that feels like a college campus. A whole new front office building. Our Pre-K building will be completely refurbished.
“And then just the offerings of the amount of faculty and staff that we’re going to be able to garner from around the United States and abroad to enhance our academics.”
The 100-bed dormitory will facilitate a new boarding component of the school, which Huebel maintains will help stave off any potential rise increase in tuition.
Construction is planned to begin in late Fall of 2023. Beaufort Academy hopes to open the doors and welcome students to the new enhancements in Fall of 2025.
The USDA Rural Development program
According to its website, “USDA Rural Development supports rural prosperity in South Carolina by investing in modern infrastructure such as high-speed internet and water and waste treatment systems. We help eligible rural South Carolinians buy or rent affordable housing, and we can partner with you to build or improve essential community facilities such as hospitals, libraries, and schools.”
Normally, obtaining a loan like this might take roughly two years. But for BA, this was closer to a 5-year process.
“This process has been overwhelming to say the least,” Huebel said.
In the weeks and months immediately after the application process began, there were administration changes, the death of two students, and, of course, COVID-19. Nothing came easy.
Huebel descibed the experience as being like “birthing an elephant with four on your back while scaling Mt. Everest. We would be midway through construction or done by now had COVID not hit.”
On January 17, Huebel got the call from USDA’s South Carolina’s Director Saundra Glover informing her BA had been approved by the national office for the $40 million.
“This is monumental, historic,” Huebel said Thursday. “It was tough. I had to wait until now to share the news, even though I learned funds were there in early February.”
In the immediate future, BA Roundtables will be held from 6 to 7 p.m., Wednesday, March 8 and Wednesday, March 22 in the BA Library for parents, faculty, staff, and community members to learn more about the plans and their next phases, how to get involved, and to ask any questions or voice any concerns.
Project updates can be found online at BuildingBA.com.
“This is going to present some unbelievable opportunities for our kids,” Huebel said. “It’s an amazing thing, not having a ceiling.”
Mike McCombs is the Editor of The Island News and can be reached at TheIslandNews@gmail.com.