Fearful of setting a precedent that could put state government on the hook for years to come; the State Bond Commission Thursday delayed approving a loan for a Baton Rouge charter school targeting at-risk youth.
Sarah Broome, executive director of the THRIVE Charter Boarding School, said she was concerned about delaying too much longer because the facility is losing its lease and needs to move into a larger space that will take about a year to build.
“We’re going to have some real problems,” Broome said after the hearing. “But it sounds like they want to find a solution.”
State Treasurer John N. Kennedy asked Broome to gather data about the school, its funding and its academic statistics. Then members of the Bond Commission could meet with the school’s board, the architects and contractors, then revisit the request next month.
The school teaches middle school, grades six through eight, for at-risk children who are in danger of homelessness, disruptive behavior, criminal records or whose family stability has been disrupted. The boarding school provides overnight facilities for 80 students and has a long waiting list.
The school’s performance ranking is the highest in East Baton Rouge Parish for a charter school.
The school sought approval of a $30 million bond to build a new facility at 2585 Brightside Lane in Baton Rouge. The school would include classrooms, a gymnasium and a three-story dormitory. The school would expand to handle about 350 students by 2021.
The THRIVE Foundation, a nonprofit, would repay the loan with some private donations but mostly with federal grants and state funding.
That’s where the Bond Commission members, who otherwise were complimentary of the school’s work, raised questions.
“If school closes and we (the state) put money into the building, then who gets the property?” asked state Sen. Ed Murray, D-New Orleans.
“Once we allow this to go through, I can see the pressure” from other charters wanting similar consideration, said state Senate President John Alario, a Westwego Republican and member of the Bond Commission.
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