Chesterton Tribune

 

 

Discovery Charter School to close soon on $7 million bond

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

It’s been a long, hard effort but the Discovery Charter School Board sees the light at the end of the tunnel in getting its approximately $7 million bond going.

The board stated at its meeting Monday that Dec. 30 is the projected closing date on the bond, which means that it won’t be long before Discovery will own the existing building itself, buying it from Charter Schools Development Corporation (CSDC).

The property acquisition from CSDC will cost about $3,449,000 and with the bond, the school also plans to move ahead with its $2.3 million in improvements. A new 16,720 sq. ft. building will give Discovery space for seven new classrooms, two offices, restrooms and a combination cafeteria and gymnasium.

The new building will be connected to the existing building. One classroom will be lost but there will be a larger office area and a nurses station.

The bond will also help the school consolidate $160,000 of its debt and other funds will be used to pay for closing costs, debt service reserve and capitalized interest.

“It’s exciting. We’re finally getting this done,” said Board President Laurie Metz.

The bonds will be paid off over a 35-year period.

The goal is to have the expansion ready by the start of next school year in August, Metz said. The main parking lot will also be broadened so the school dismissal process can go more quickly.

Discovery is working with The Hamstra Group of Wheatfield on the improvements.

Metz said that Discovery is also to receive a 10-year loan of $1,175,000 from the state as part of the charter advance program. She said Discovery is hoping to use the loan as an advance award to compliment the bond.

As it’s working out the details with the Department of Education, Discovery hopes the first 10 years of amortization would take care of the advance award and then the amortization on the bonds would begin the year after that.

Metz said that Discovery continues to transition its way from American Quality Schools which has been its management company from the time the school opened. Part of that change is choosing its own employee health insurance plan. Two insurance companies have submitted proposals to the board.

ISTEP scores

In his Director’s report, Discovery Principal Ernesto Martinez said he will be receiving the school’s scores on last spring’s ISTEP testing on Tuesday from the Department of Education but the state won’t be releasing the information to the public until the middle of January.

Schools can evaluate the scores and ask questions. The state will then make a rescore before they are a finalized for the public, Martinez said.

The scores have been delayed this year as the testing used a new format, scrapping Common Core standards. Martinez said the DOE expects a 20 to 30 percent drop in test scores in schools throughout the state and anticipates Discovery will also see a decline in its results.

He added that the DOE figures it will be three to five years before scores will rise to the previous levels. “That’s the adjustment period of the new test,” he said.

Martinez also reported that students brought in over 2,000 food items in a recent food drive for the Westchester Food Pantry.

Enrollment is at 502 right now, Martinez said, as two students this past month have relocated elsewhere, but two or three students are looking to start in January which would bring up the enrollment.

SCRIP numbers fall sharply

Meanwhile, Board member and Parents Advisory Council member Lisa Apato reported the total in sales from Discovery’s SCRIP program since Nov. 1 is $4,375 with 35 participating families.

That’s a sharp contrast from last November when the sales amounted to over $60,000 with 42 participating families.

The PAC encourages families to purchase SCRIP gift cards from the school. The cards can be used to make purchases from businesses in the area. The businesses then rebate a portion of the sales through PAC to directly benefit Discovery Charter School.

Apato said one of the reasons the sales have not been as robust is because some families that were very active no longer have children in the school.

For any new family interested in using SCRIP, cards may be acquired at the front entrance or by order form.

On another note, Apato said she will be sending an email to parents Tuesday telling them about Giving Tuesday. Donors may give direct donations to the school on the school’s home webpage, www.discoverycharterschool.org.

“If two people donate, that’s two people who wouldn’t have donated otherwise,” she said.

 

Posted 12/1/2015

 

 

 
 
 

 

 

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