News Column

ATC secures loan to purchase south-side campus

August 21, 2014

By Robert Nott, The Santa Fe New Mexican



Aug. 21--The Academy for Technology and the Classics plans to buy its campus south of Santa Fe with a $4.3 million loan from Los Alamos National Bank.

The 25-year mortgage, with a 4.25 percent interest rate, will allow the charter high school to purchase the 10.5-acre site and 27,000-square-foot building on Avan Nu Po Road. The school will make a $300,000 down payment and use the $4.3 million loan to cover the rest of the $4.6 million price tag.

The move allows the charter school to be eligible for Santa Fe Public Schools' General Obligation bond funding in 2017 to maintain and renovate the building. School leaders plan to add a gym, science labs, a music room and a cafeteria space. They will need to raise a total of $6 million in the next few years to make those goals a reality, according to Tannis Fox, president of the school's Governing Council.

The real estate purchase should be closed by September, Fox said.

The action could put an end to a lengthy period of uncertainty for the school, which opened in 2000 and moved to its current site in 2007.

In spring 2011, a school district audit uncovered numerous problems with the academy's financial management, human resources operations and Governing Council procedures. At that time, the school was having difficulty paying its monthly $45,000 rent to the school's foundation -- a private nonprofit that handles business dealings -- which in turn pays the rent to bondholder Hamlin Management Group of New York.

Shortly thereafter, the district temporarily suspended ATC's charter status until it got its affairs in order. The district restored the charter in May 2012 after offering up to $215,000 to help the school get back on its feet.

Hamlin's leaders agreed to lower the monthly lease payments if the school entered into a lease-purchase arrangement to buy the property. The school's foundation now pays about $23,300 per month in rent, which comes to about $279,000 a year. That amount is easily covered by the state's Public School Capital Outlay Council, which provides lease money for charter schools.

The state Public Education Department has to approve the real estate deal, Fox said.

The school serves about 365 students in grades 7-12 on an annual budget of about $2.67 million. It received an A in the state's A-F grading system this year and was rated one of the best charter schools in the country in a report on charter schools from U.S. News and World Report last spring. That report also cited the academy as the fourth best charter school in New Mexico.

Principal Susan Lumley told the school board Tuesday night that more than 400 students are on a waiting list to get into the school.

Contact Robert Nott at 986-3021 or rnott@sfnewmexican.com.

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(c)2014 The Santa Fe New Mexican (Santa Fe, N.M.)

Visit The Santa Fe New Mexican (Santa Fe, N.M.) at www.santafenewmexican.com

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Source: Santa Fe New Mexican, The (NM)


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