$21.6M Springfield Prep Charter School campus renovation underway

A former office building in East Springfield will be the new home of Springfield Prep Charter School this summer. The $21.6 million project will feature a 51,000-square-foot building on four acres. The school, which has operated in temporary spaces since it opened in 2015, expects to move into its new campus in time to start the next school year.

“Since we opened, we have gotten used to doing more with less, but our scholars deserve the best,” said founder and Executive Director Bill Spirer. “We are completely transforming this building into a modern, bright, technology-integrated school campus that offers great spaces to gather, learn together, play, and collaborate.”

The new site is a former office building at at 2071 Roosevelt Ave. The campus will feature a full gymnasium with a stage, multiple playgrounds and outdoor classroom space. There will also be dedicated classrooms for science and art, and a multipurpose cafeteria and community room.

“We always knew we would need more space and have been looking for the right space in Springfield for a number of years,” Spirer said.

The school started off on Pine Street sharing space with Veritas Prep Charter School. Now it is at the Jewish Community Center campus on the Springfield/ Longmeadow line.

Springfield Prep has 380 students in kindergarten through sixth grade, and will grow to its full size, with 486 students through eighth grade, in the 2022-23 school year. Like all charter schools in Massachusetts, Springfield Prep is a free public school with no screening requirements. Students are enrolled through a lottery.

“Since COVID we have been mostly remote, except for some students who have had barriers to remote learning,” Spirer said. “We are hoping to bring more students back on-site throughout the winter and the spring.”

Spirer said teachers, students and families have had to adapt to a new way of teaching and learning, but everyone is adapting.

“It’s incredibly hard, but our teachers have done an amazing job. We are a small school and that allows us to be dynamic and agile, so we have made a lot of program changes to support our students as well as possible during these challenging times,” he said.

Charter schools do not have access to funds from the Massachusetts School Building Authority and must fund building projects through operating reserves, private fundraising and bank financing.

The majority of the Springfield Prep project is being financed through a $13.3 million bond issued by MassDevelopment and purchased by Boston Private Bank & Trust.

Civic Builders, a nonprofit that develops and finances schools in under-resourced neighborhoods, provided $3.5 million of new market tax credit proceeds, which U.S. Bank purchased. BlueHub Capital provided an initial bridge loan that enabled the school to acquire the property. The school has also raised $2.8 million through a capital campaign.

“Given what our scholars, staff, and families have been able to accomplish in temporary spaces, I know we will be able to achieve even greater heights together in a school building that has the resources and amenities that many schools take for granted,” said Kelvin Molina-Brantley, who helped found the school and is now on the board of directors. “We are proud to be building another state-of-the-art school building that will serve thousands of deserving Springfield scholars for many years to come.”

The school purchased the building in January 2020 and broke ground in August. The contractor is Fontaine Brothers, a Springfield firm, with designs by Jones Whitsett Architects. The project is managed by QPD Co., a real estate consulting firm that focuses on charter school and nonprofit development.

The project will generate 64 prevailing wage construction jobs. At full capacity, the school will employ more than 70 full-time staff members.

The project incorporates design elements to increase energy efficiency and overall sustainability, including a new heating, air conditioning and ventilation system.

“We are ensuring that we are following the most updated guidelines about safety and that the space is as safe as it can be for our students and staff,” Spirer said.

The school is set to open in the fall, pending any pandemic restrictions set by the state.

“This school year has been challenging in so many ways, and not seeing our students in person has been the most difficult part of this,” Spirer said. “Having this new campus in our future gives us something exciting to look forward to. We can’t wait.”