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How To Build A Charter School

After years of guiding charter school facilities development, LISC has bottled its knowledge in a new platform: SchoolBuild: From Idea to Construction. SchoolBuild is an essential online resource to support charter school leaders as they dig into the process of creating a bricks-and-mortar facility, with advice on everything from cost projections to financing options and the many other steps required to bring a new school to life.

With the granting of a charter, charter school leaders win the opportunity to teach kids and bring new educational options to communities that want and need them. But when it comes to developing bricks-and-mortar facilities in which to pursue that mission? Well, they’re pretty much on their own.

It’s been one of our missions at LISC to change that, and this week, we’re thrilled to introduce a major step in the right direction: SchoolBuild: From Idea to Construction. An online resource years in the making, SchoolBuild is a one-stop shop for school leaders embarking on a facilities project. It brings advice from the experienced perspective of LISC and our partners, along with up-to-the-minute intelligence on the facilities landscape as it exists today.

SchoolBuild is not a policy study. It’s about how to get the job done. With SchoolBuild, we’ll be virtually “walking” school leaders through the process, from the day they start imagining a new or renovated school building to the day when students begin pouring through its doors.

We’ve worked with a lot of visionary charter school planners over the years. Here’s what they tell us. The facilities development process is hard. Passionate educators often find their foray into the worlds of real estate and finance can become a full-time job in itself, involving a continuous volley of phone calls just to assemble the information they need. Discerning which sources are most reliable is another demanding task.

So we’ve built SchoolBuild to be user-friendly. Where to begin? Just click on step 1, Understanding Your Needs, and a menu pops up with eight sections representing key stages in the process, from assessing a school’s preparedness for a facility project through financing and construction.

Using SchoolBuild’s unique Project Cost Calculator, in just a few minutes users will be able to figure out what their desired facility is likely to cost and whether their school can afford it.

An Essential Resources section includes checklists, forms, worksheets, and templates that will assist users with everything from putting together a cash flow pro forma to managing construction risks.

And when school leaders navigate to Financing Options, they’ll find an independently verified compendium of federal and state facility financing programs and a survey-based, content-rich directory of key vendors in the sector, including real estate developers, bond underwriters, financial consultants, nonprofit lenders, and national commercial banks.

Knowledge is power. With SchoolBuild, we hope to increase schools’ access to the capital markets, provide relevant sector data that’s updated in real time—and ultimately lower schools’ cost of capital by promoting transparency and competition among vendors.

We’ll be ready to help every step of the way. Contact us at schoolbuild@lisc.org.

Reena AbrahamABOUT THE AUTHOR

Reena Abraham, Vice President of Education
Reena manages LISC’s growing charter school facilities portfolio. She seeks out capital and grants from foundations, banks and public resources and works to works to improve the sector by sharing loan and bond performance data and by disseminating research on financing options for charter schools. She was selected to be a 2015 Council of Urban Professionals fellow. Reena holds an M.B.A. from New York University.

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