Bridges Prep receives $10 million loan for campus upgrade

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development program this week approved a loan of almost $10 million to Bridges Preparatory School to build a new campus in downtown Beaufort.

“We still have planning, engineering, traffic design and other studies to complete, along with stacks of paperwork – but our new Bridges Prep campus is on the way,” said Dee Matthews, chair of the Bridges Prep Board of Directors.

This $9,990,000 loan will enable Bridges Prep to convert the Boundary Street campus into a new K-8 school; to buy additional property for future expansion; and to pay off the current note. The loan carries a maximum 3.625 percent interest rate and will provide the school with the means to reach Bridges’ goals for educational excellence, Matthews said.

Bridges Preparatory School was chartered by South Carolina in mid-2012 and opened at near capacity in August 2013. Since then, enrollment has grown by 42 percent. For the upcoming school year, Bridges Prep will expand to ninth grade. A groundbreaking ceremony is expected later this winter or early spring, and construction should take about 18 months, said Bridges Prep board member Marty Miley. The USDA Rural Development loan has been in the works for several years and was part of the early brainstorming as a group of interested parents worked toward earning the state charter.

“The dedication and teamwork in setting this plan in motion has been phenomenal, moving a process that started a few years ago into the final completion of this endeavor in the last nine months,” Matthews told the Bridges Prep staff and families.

“Getting this loan has been a dream that began with the pursuit of our charter. We have had the ability to stand on many shoulders to get to the finish line and we wish to express heartfelt thanks to all those who helped us reach this financial milestone, including parents, teachers and staff, school administrators, USRDA representatives, and members of each of our school boards seated since we earned our state charter,” she said.

Already working on the project is the FWA Group, an architectural firm with a Hilton Head office and 50 years of experience designing schools.

“This is a momentous occasion for Bridges Prep,” Matthews said. “From the time our school opened in 2013, we have increased enrollment by more than 40 percent and now we have the funding available to create a new campus.”

As a state charter school, Bridges Prep is open to all students in the Lowcountry without tuition. Bridges Prep follows the Paideia principles of education: All children can learn and therefore they all deserve the same quality of schooling, not just the same quantity; and the quality of schooling to which they are entitled is what the wisest parents would wish for their own children, the best education for the best being the best education for all.