Ivy Preparatory Academy Schools administrators and board members celebrated the launch of an innovative expansion at the Kirkwood campus with a ribbon cutting ceremony recently.
The event marked the next chapter for Ivy Prep Kirkwood as a landowner of the strip mall that houses the public charter school and a landlord to businesses leasing property in the building.
Ivy Prep raised $13.7 million through the sale of revenue bonds to purchase the site and make the school a landmark in DeKalb County. Officials with the State Charter Schools Commission said the bond deal is the “first of its kind” for a state- approved charter school.
Scholars representing Ivy Prep Kirkwood School for Girls and Ivy Prep Young Men’s Leadership Academy welcomed the audience of supporters with the school song, motto and creed. Members of the State Charter Schools Commission, the Georgia Charter Schools Association, the Parkview Civic Association, and the DeKalb County government were among those in attendance of the ribbon cutting.
“We are gathered here today to celebrate a momentous occasion for Ivy Prep Academy,” said Mrs. Victoria Wiley, executive director of Ivy Preparatory Academy Schools network. “Even though Ivy Prep Kirkwood School for Girls has purchased this building, this is an accomplishment for all three schools.
“This moment is a fresh start – a new beginning. As we cut this ribbon we are showing our community, that we are here to stay,” Wiley said. “We are making a commitment to our parents and our Parkview neighbors. I couldn’t be more proud to serve this organization and our scholars.”
The bond deal took two years to complete from the idea stage to the approval stage. Ivy Prep partnered with the DeKalb County Development Authority to seek a bond issue to finance the purchase of the 100,000 square-foot strip mall. The campus, which is at capacity with about 800 students, will soon expand. Ivy Prep received $650,000 from the bond to develop more than 15,000 square feet of space on campus into classrooms and separate the single-gender schools at Kirkwood, which currently share an entrance, a cafeteria, and a playground.
Construction will begin in late January.
“There is an old saying that it takes a village to raise a child,” Christopher Kunney, chairman of the board of IPA told the audience. “This endeavor shows what it means to have a village who truly invests in our children. You are our future. We are happy to serve you and to be able to provide more classroom space for you to learn and grow in and be successful.”
Kirkwood scholars are excited about the getting new classrooms. They say the expansion is needed because some classes are being held outside of the building due to space restrictions.
“The chance to expand is huge; I believe that this will give the school a better chance to suit all of our needs,” said Nicholas Oliver, a freshman at Ivy Prep Kirkwood’s new high school. “We have some high school classes at the YMCA because we could not be accommodated here with all of the students here. We will be able to attract more students to Kirkwood, and we will have more classrooms for the high school.”
Ivy Prep is the first charter school to buy a building that has a built-in cash stream of existing commercial tenants. The purchase takes a new approach to providing adequate classroom space to charter school students that could revitalize communities and breathe new life into struggling strip malls.
Gregg Stevens, counsel for the State Charter Schools Commission said: “Ivy Prep will be able to rent out their facilities and use the rent they receive to pay back the bond. Having your own facility really sends a message that you are part of a community and you deserve to be there.”
Wiley and Kunney recognized all who supported the effort to buy the Kirkwood building from staff to Hamlin Capital Management, which purchased the bonds and Baird, the underwriter for the bond deal.
Kendra Shipmon, principal of Ivy Prep Kirkwood School for Girls, was praised for co-facilitating the project.
“She was my backing through this whole process,” Wiley told Shipmon. “I truly appreciate all of your hard work.”
Wiley also thanked Kunney for his support. “He has been at the forefront of this project from the beginning. I thank you for your guidance. I appreciate you taking time way from your own family to make this happen for our family.”
Shipmon she feels “honored” to work at Ivy Prep Kirkwood. “It’s an amazing task we have here and an amazing opportunity to change the lives of scholars.”
Shipmon said tenants of the strip mall LIV Fitness, Pizza Hut and Kirkwood Family Medicine, a Grady health care facility will remain in the plaza and forge partnerships with the school. Administrators said they would like to see Pizza Hut deliveries include school enrollment flyers and Ivy Prep parents sending their children to the clinic for physicals.
Following the ceremony, new board member Bruce Taylor looked over proposed architectural drawings of the expanded campus. He was impressed by what he saw. “This allows us to get even more kids into an excellent educational program.”