BROOMFIELD - Tammy Stringari knows first-hand how difficult it can be for charter schools to pay for their own buildings. That's why when Jefferson Academy opened the doors on a new building for the first time Saturday afternoon, the principal says it was the end of a journey both short and long.
"A lot of charters started out just like we did in an old facility or a strip mall," said Stringari, principal of the secondary school of Jefferson Academy.
Jefferson Academy is a kindergarten through 12th grade charter school in Broomfield. Like all charter schools, Jefferson Academy receives the same per-pupil funding from the state government as traditional public schools. But, charter schools receive little to no money to pay for buildings. That money must come out of the classroom budgets.
"It's a long road for charters. I mean, this took 20 years to get this," Stringari said.
For years, the entire K-12 program was crammed into one building and Stringari says just last year, Jefferson Academy's Board of Directors decided to take the bold move of expanding the elementary program by 340 students to bring in more money. That allowed the charter school to secure tax exempt bonds to purchase the land and build a $9.7 million facility designed by the SlaterPaull Architects.
"It seemed like the right time to do it," Stringari said.
School leaders went from securing the funds - to breaking ground - to opening the school in just about a year. The extra revenue brought in by the added elementary students will help pay off the bond in the coming years.
"They're good at what they do and they've carried out this huge project," said Margo Smith, parent of a 7th grader.
Sophomore Rebecca Lamb walked around the building for the first time Saturday afternoon. The sophomore students says she's impressed.
"I like the classrooms," Lamb said. "It's a lot nicer and the classrooms are a lot bigger and nicer."
Lamb and 600 of her classmates will move from the old building to the new building on Monday. The elementary school will then expand into the space left by the 7th through 12th grades at the old facility.
"We're definitely going to miss the old school because there's a lot of memories in that school," Lamb said. "But, we'll make new ones in this one."
Stringari says the building is state-of-the-art with energy conservation a priority. The school also has an enhanced Wi-Fi system to handle all the computers and tablets in use on campus.
"It's like building a house, you know, those last minute decisions," Stringari said. "But, it feels like home."
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