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River Valley Completes Sale

Charter School Pays $4.35 Million for Campus

January 15, 2013 :, by Lynne Hendricks

NEWBURYPORT – After months of negotiating and planning, River Valley Charter School has formally purchased its building, paying $4.35 million for its 2 Perry Way headquarters.

Now, school leaders are putting the call out to parents, students and the community that it's time to celebrate what they feel is one of the most important milestones in the school's 13-year history.

More than a decade after the institution set out to become the first Montessori charter school in the state, it now has a permanent place to live and grow.

“It’s a very important day for this charter school – to own their own building,” Executive Director Jeanne Schultz said. “Everyone’s very excited.”

A ribbon-cutting ceremony is planned for Friday, and will represent an opportunity to officially recognize the sale and all those who helped make it happen. But it’s not just the parents who are being invited to commemorate the occasion.

“I purchased pins for all the children so they’re each going to get a pin that has the purchase date on it, as a keepsake,” Schultz said.

In an assembly last Friday, Schultz gathered the school's 288 students together for a pep rally of sorts to share the news.

“We just cheered,” Scultz said. “We talked about what it meant to own a school and not just be renting.”

What it means in concrete financial terms is that the school will finally be able to budget around a figure that will remain constant each year, providing a more stable foundation to address curriculum and programs, the director said.

“When you’re paying rent, your rent goes up every year,” Schultz said. “We now have a mortgage and that mortgage will keep our payments the same for the next 10 years. It makes it easier to plan for programming, curriculum, teachers and materials.”

River Valley purchased the 36,000-square-foot building with the help of conduit MassDevelopment in the form of a low-interest, tax-exempt $4.58 million bond, which was purchased by RBS Citizens, NA.

“By owning rather than leasing, River Valley Charter School will be able to lower its overall operating costs and devote more resources to its mission of providing quality elementary education,” MassDevelopment President and CEO Marty Jones said in a release.

Of the bond amount, $4.35 million was used for the purchase and the rest will pay for necessary renovations on the property and building, according to Schultz.

“It will allow us to plan fiscally for the future in a very confident way – taking care of our staff, taking care of our building and taking care of our playground,” Schultz said. “Our playground has a lot of issues because whenever it rains, it comes from all directions and takes a piece of the playground with it. It’s a matter of our site evaluation and talking about what could mitigate the water problem.”

In a letter home to parents, Dana Lowell, chairman of the RVCS Board of Trustees, and Bonnie Bowes, president of the River Valley Charter School Foundation, said that with improvements made to the building last year, including the addition of a gym, library and art room, it made good sense to zero in on purchasing the existing building.

“Using tax-exempt bonds issued through MassDevelopment (a state authority), we were able to finance the purchase at a rate which will result in monthly mortgage payments lower than our current lease payments.”

Friday’s ribbon cutting is expected to draw a number of local and state dignitaries, providing opportunities for school officials to further highlight how the purchase stands to improve the educational outlook for the River Valley school community.

On the whole, Schultz said it will provide an opportunity to celebrate the stable feeling of ownership.

“It’s a wonderful feeling to own our own building,” she said.

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