West Concord charter school plan steams forward
WEST CONCORD — Backers of a proposed charter school in West Concord have chosen a familiar location for their building — a park next to the former high school.
Memorial Park, on Eugene Street, contains the city’s swimming pool as well as tennis and volleyball courts, and is across the street from a school that originally housed West Concord High School.
The school became Triton Middle School after consolidation with the Dodge Center and Claremont school districts, and it was eventually vacated when a middle school was added to Triton High School in Dodge Center.
The charter school would occupy about 1 1/2 acres in the park, said Jeff McCool, who is a member of the school’s interim school board and the mayor of West Concord.
Board members hope to break ground for the charter school next spring, with construction on the 9,000-square-foot structure taking about four months. They’d like to open the school in the fall of 2013 with at least 70 students in grades kindergarten to 5, and expand the school to grades K to 8 in later years.
"We’re pretty happy to report that we’re on track with that," McCool said.
Board members recently held a town-hall-style presentation in Memorial Park that was attended by about 50 people. The interest was strong enough that McCool believes the goal of 70 students is attainable, though it would be possible to open the school with fewer students.
"I think a lot of the people went away impressed," he said.
A contract with the charter school’s authorizer, Wayzata-based Friends of Education, has been executed, with final approval expected soon from the state Department of Education, McCool said.
School construction costs would be between $1.3 million and $1.5 million, McCool said.
The West Concord board is working with Charter Schools Development Corp. , based in Hanover, Md., and plans to apply for a loan through U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development , an agency geared to improving economic conditions and quality of life in rural communities.
Funding for school start-up costs is being sought through a federal grant for charter schools that’s been awarded to Minnesota and is to be awarded in 2013.
The board recently received a donation of about 125 lightly used desks and chairs from another Minnesota charter school that was upgrading. McCool estimated the value of the donation at $10,000.