Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Academy Charter School looks to expand its expansion

Academy Charter School in Palmer
Thanks to a $1.5 million appropriation from the Alaska Legislature, Academy Charter School will add at least five classrooms next fall to its main building.

 The Valley's oldest charter school is currently housed in six portables - some of which were originally slated to be burned by the Palmer Fire Dept. fifteen years ago - and two buildings that serve as the home of its middle school. From frequently frozen bathroom pipes to ceilings that snow dust whenever the wind blows, Academy's students and staff deal daily with the challenge of making do.

Now, should the Matanuska-Susitna Borough Assembly approve, the entire school has the chance to be housed entirely under one roof. As bids have rolled in for the five-classroom expansion, it's become clear that the classroom count could double for approximately $229,000 on top of the legislative money.

"This is a huge opportunity to get the best value for the dollar," principal Barbara Gerard wrote to Academy families and staff. "If we can convince the Assembly to allow us this money - whether as a one-time grant or as a loan the school would pay back over the next ten years - we can solve our school housing problem."

According to the borough public works dept.,  the total cost of the project equals $141 per square foot if alternates are allowed. Gerard said that, if the borough denies the extra funding request, the expansion will include five completed classrooms with three unfinished, stubbed-in classrooms and an elevator-lift.
The appropriation money comes the year after the Matanuska-Susitna Borough purchased several acres of land adjoining Academy Charter, City of Palmer soccer fields and the school district headquarters using school site selection dollars. Until the land was purchased, Academy Charter could not renovate due to inadequate parking from the small size of its lot. 
The new land purchase, combined with the funding to build, is good news for the school. The question is: will the Assembly go the extra mile so the expansion can do the same?

--Melodie Wright, a teacher at Academy Charter School

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