Beaufort County might lease Charles Lind Brown Center to Bridges Prep

cconley@islandpacket.comJune 19, 2013 

Organizers of a new charter school want to rent Beaufort's Charles Lind Brown Center for use by two of its grades next school year.

Bridges Preparatory School is negotiating a lease with Beaufort County to rent the community center on Hamar Street for kindergarten and first grade, according to head of school Melesia Walden.

The school's second through sixth grade will be about half-mile away at the Beaufort Boys & Girls Club.

"With the number of children enrolled, we cannot fit all of the students in the Boys & Girls Club," Walden said, adding that the location and layout of the community center make it a good fit.

The school plans to open Aug. 19 with 360 students in kindergarten through sixth grade. A new grade will be added each year through 12th grade.

Terms of the contract for the community center, such as the rental rate and length of the lease, are still being negotiated, county attorney Josh Gruber said in an email.

County officials say the proposed daily schedule would have a minimal effect on public access to the center, which now opens at 2 p.m.

Gruber said the school likely would use the center from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays. It would be open to the public from 4 to 6 p.m. The Community Circle of Hope Coalition, which directs community programs there, would use the center from 6 to 8 p.m.

The county's Parks and Leisure Services board supports leasing the center. A second of three required County Council votes on the proposal is scheduled for Monday.

County Councilman William McBride of St. Helena Island supports the agreement, since the lease is likely to run only for a year. But he said he might reconsider if the term is longer.

"My understanding is that right now, due to budget cuts, they are not really using that facility in the morning," he said of the center. "The school wants to use it in the morning when (its) not being used by PALS or the community."

If approved, Bridges plans to renovate the interior and divide several rooms into smaller classrooms. Details of those plans were not immediately available.

Walden said the school hopes to find an existing building in or near downtown Beaufort soon for a permanent location, but is also considering new construction.

"We are looking for a facility large enough for us," she said. "If we can't find one that is going to be (suitable) for us for next year, then we will probably end up building."

Follow reporter Casey Conley at twitter.com/IPBG_Casey.

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