One of the biggest hurtles confronting the nascent Patrick Henry School of Science and Arts – a lease to its building on Semmes Avenue – may soon be cleared. The Richmond School Board provided a proposed, but as yet unsigned, lease for the Patrick Henry Elementary School building to the Patrick Henry board on April 15.
One of the biggest hurtles confronting the nascent Patrick Henry School of Science and Arts – a lease to its building on Semmes Avenue – may soon be cleared. The Richmond School Board provided a proposed, but as yet unsigned, lease for the Patrick Henry Elementary School building to the Patrick Henry board on April 15, confirms Patrick Henry spokeswoman Kristen Larson.
The absence of a signed lease, according to school leaders, has repeatedly caused fund-raising efforts to stall, as potential donors have declined their support based on the lack of a building.
The news of a lease agreement comes even as the proposed charter school’s leaders face down perhaps an even bigger challenge on Monday night, when the Richmond School Board votes on a proposal to temporarily relocate the school to another facility.
The proposed lease is “with our lawyers,” Larson says, indicating that the lease stipulates the expected $1 yearly rent for the 80-year-old former city school.
The school’s board president, Deb Butterworth says the lease remains unsigned while lawyers for both parties iron out details and stipulations.
Larson says that even the promise of a lease can potentially have a positive effect on fund-raising efforts.
“I definitely think that having a signed lease on a building that we’re scheduled to do renovations on makes people somewhat more comfortable when donating money to the school,” she says. “We have heard from donors that raising money on a building that we don’t own and don’t have a lease on has made them less confident.”
The school, which would be the first stand-alone public charter school in Virginia, also is close to finalizing a lease with Woodland Heights Baptist Church, a temporary location that would allow the school to open on time this year while going ahead with long-delayed renovations at the Patrick Henry building. As part of negotiations on that second lease, school officials confirm that they’ve pushed back their first day of school to August 11 to accommodate an already scheduled summer vacation Bible school program at the church.
The wary feeling among potential financial supporters is clearly evident in the numbers.
Even a fundraiser at the school sponsored by Gov. Bob McDonnell, one of the Patrick Henry’s most vocal supporters, has yielded only about $50,000 in new donations, Larson says. Overall cash donations so far toward the school’s ambitious $350,000 first-year goal have totaled $100,000.
Federal and organizational grants have made up the bulk of the school’s funding successes, so far totaling more than $700,000, and putting the school largely in the black in terms of ability to promote itself as fiscally sound to a questioning Richmond School Board.
Of equal importance to fund-raising in Larson’s mind is enrollment – commitment by parents to send their children to the school – and as of Thursday night, the last night of its open registration for children who won lottery slots, close to 130 children were signed up to attend. That number is just about 30 students shy of the school’s planned first-year enrollment, a difference likely to be made up when wait-listed families are offered the open slots.
“We were going out doing this fund-raising and saying this is what we hope and envision,” says Larson. “Now we have our families, we’re close to finalizing our lease. We’re close to something that’s real.”