Bridges Prep buys Beaufort Boys & Girls Club building

Bridges Preparatory School, a state charter school in its first full year of operation, is buying the Beaufort Boys & Girls Club property on Boundary Street to expand its campus in downtown Beaufort.

Bridges Prep, a Paideia and STEM-infused charter school located in downtown Beaufort, finalized an agreement with the Boys and Girls Club to purchase the facility at 1100 Boundary Street effective July 1.

The purchase will be financed by the Boys & Girls Club and details will be released after the closing July 1. The facility purchase will be the first of its kind for area charter schools and allows Bridges to control its future.

Bridges Prep serves students in kindergarten through sixth grade, but plans to begin adding additional grades each year, starting with seventh grade in the upcoming school year. The school opened last August with all its classrooms filled and currently has about 150 students on a waiting list, according to John Payne, chairman of the Bridges Board of Directors.

“We are buying the Boys & Girls Club property ourselves, giving us a permanent home, and we’ll expand in coming years. We’ll be in a stronger financial position by buying the site,” he said, “enabling us to expand our Gifted and Talented services for the next school year and give our staff modest raises. Those are things we couldn’t do if we rented the building.”

In January of 2014, the BPS board signed a non-binding Letter of Intent with HighMark, LLC of Utah to construct K-12 classrooms at the Boys & Girls Club site in two phases. Based on HighMark’s estimates to build both phases, Bridges made certain funding/budget decisions in anticipation of entering into a final agreement with HighMark.

Unfortunately, when HighMark presented its final agreement to Bridges for signature, the estimated cost terms had substantially changed from those presented in the Letter of Intent. This meant Bridges was placed in a potentially precarious financial position by HighMark, had it gone through with the proposed lease.

The substantial cost change, in conjunction with changes in state funding formulas, left the Bridges Preparatory Board no choice but to vote down the HighMark agreement and pursue a more fiscally responsible direction that would ensure the quality of teaching, classroom funding, and other key academic programming would continue at Bridges for years to come.

South Carolina charter schools don’t receive state facility funding and operational costs such as rent and utilities are paid out of school funds. “It was simply not fiscally prudent to move forward with the HighMark option,” Payne said.

“In the end it would have cost us too much and depleted financial reserves that we need to keep our exceptional teachers and staff, and reduced the funds we would have invested into the classroom,” Payne said.

“The HighMark option would have given us a pretty building but would have put our academics in jeopardy. This board chose to not do that and to invest more money into our classrooms.

“We have the fund reserve, we have the cash flow and we have a very positive financial projection,” Payne said. “As we have seen with many other charter schools, it is essential that we control our own destiny by owning our own school.”

For more information, contact John Payne, Chairman, Bridges Preparatory Board of Directors, at JohnPayne@BridgesPreparatorySchool.org, visit www.bridgesprep.org or call 843-982-7737.

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