Beaufort County's newest charter school will open this fall in downtown Beaufort at the Boys & Girls Club at 1100 Boundary St.
The decision by the Bridges Preparatory School board not only provides a space for students in kindergarten through sixth grade; it throws a lifeline to the cash-strapped club, which will serve as a temporary location for the charter school for a year.
"This partnership is a good way to better utilize space during the day and help the school and Boys & Girls Club at the same time," said Chris Protz, executive director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Lowcountry, the Beaufort club's parent organization. "Money from the lease agreement will help us rebuild program opportunities and capacity we had to reduce because we were not meeting revenue goals."
The nonprofit club was forced to cut its summer program last year from 160 children to 80 to save about $50,000 and shore up a projected deficit of $213,000. The club was able to raise enough money and cut expenses to balance its budget by the start of the current fiscal year, Protz said.
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The club remains on budget, he said, and the arrangement with Bridges will help keep it that way.
Details of the lease are still being settled, according to Protz, who could not recall how much money the school would pay. The school will begin moving in July 1.
The club will continue to provide after-school and summer programs for its members, Protz said.
In the coming year, Bridges intends to buy land and begin building a permanent location north of the Broad River, school charter committee chairwoman Ivie Szalai wrote in an email.
The school plans to open with 360 students in kindergarten through sixth grade. The student body will grow as a new grade is added each year until 12th grade.
Szalai said the Boys & Girls Club provides a central location for the school, as well as on-site after-school care for students.
The partnership also is compatible with the school's "inquiry-based" learning program from the National Paideia Center, providing a prime venue for field trips and guest speakers, Szalai said.
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