As you know, NYOS is expanding the Lamar campus, and with an expected opening in the 2021-22 academic year, and things are moving! NYOS has officially broken ground on our new campus facility! A small group of our Senior Staff and board members came together last Friday, July 30, to celebrate the ground breaking and show appreciation for the external partners that are helping to make our new campus a reality.
NYOS Charter School
Community Member and Chair
NYOS School Board
Figure 1 The NYOS ground breaking. (Courtesy of J. Freeman)
Why the expansion?
The Board approved this major, strategic effort to meet certain goals.
- NYOS believes in its mission to educate the whole child. An important aspect of this work promotes the mission via the instructional model. The expansion will give NYOS an opportunity to bring the instructional model to more students and further promote the mission in the larger charter school community.
- We believe in the value and success of NYOS’ approach to education, and the NYOS model has proven to be an attractive option for area families. We currently serve over 1000 students and have a waitlist—many of those siblings of current students—that continues to grow. With a clear ethical imperative, the Board sought to provide more children with access to the benefits of a NYOS’ education, as well as serve many students on our waitlist.
- The Kramer campus has served NYOS well, but the elementary school has been disadvantaged being split between the campuses. The vision for the school is to unify the grades, and this building expansion will allow us to unify all of NYOS at one location.
Figure 2 New campus entryway. (©HKS Architects.)
What’s the plan?
The long range strategic plan for the campus expansion consists of
- A new elementary school building,
- A new middle school building,
- Renovations of the current Lamar facilities,
- A practice/playing field,
- A gym, and
- Performance space options for the performing arts.
The design of the new campus will integrate the existing Lamar buildings, with the additional buildings, the field, and the gym to form a unified NYOS campus.
The new buildings will add 76,300 sq. ft. of new classroom and administrative space. One building will house the elementary school; the other the middle school. The high school will expand into the four existing buildings. In all, NYOS will be able to accommodate roughly 1000 more students.
Expansion doesn’t come without some concerns. Hence, the expansion plan has operated under certain parameters important to our NYOS community. Our community told us, any plans for expansion must ensure:
- the mission is not compromised;
- the core values are upheld;
- the parameters of the charter are not violated;
- the culture of NYOS is preserved;
- the risk to the School’s financial integrity and academic performance is minimized; and
- the goals for expansion are addressed: serving more students, unifying the campuses, and promoting the instructional model.
These parameters guided the planning and decision-making process.
What’s changing and what’s staying the same?
Although the student population will nearly double. The increase in student population will not occur immediately. The plan calls for the staggered introduction of students in the lower grades, with the gradual increase in the upper grades as students matriculate through the system.
The expanded, unified campus will offer some features and benefits to all students and staff. Some of which include:
- an expanded library;
- a P.E./practice/sports field;
- playgrounds, gardening areas and play spaces;
- a gym;
- traffic flow that minimally disrupts traffic on Yager Ln and N Lamar Blvd;
- parking options on campus that accommodate our growing community;
- areas dedicated to student pick up and drop off; and
- expanded options and instructional space for music, the visual arts, and the performing arts.
- The median class size will remain at 18 students,
- The elementary school looping model will continue,
- The built-in professional development time remains part of the schedule, and
- The year-round school calendar will continue to be in effect.
There are many people working to realize this plan. The School Board approved the original concept and goals. The Property Development Committee (PDC) of the School Board advises and supports School leadership, and facilitates and promotes the work. The entire school Administrative Team has been involved in aspects of the planning and design work.
However, a project of this scope requires many external partners, and after careful vetting, partners were selected based on their previous experience with similar projects, cost effectiveness, and respect for NYOS and our work. Our selected partners have been very supportive of NYOS and have worked to ensure any new facility preserves and promotes the spirit and culture of NYOS. NYOS is very grateful to our partners!
- Project Management Services, Inc. (PMSI), works to secure the best possible facility to meet our needs within a proscribed budget.
- Harwood K. Smith, Inc. (HKS Architects), incorporates interior and exterior design elements that facilitate our instructional model and help us do what we do best.
- Our engineering contractor, Kimley Horn (KS), studies and tests our building site and works with the City of Austin to secure necessary approvals and permits.
- Kencon, LTD, is our general contractor, and is responsible for taking the plans, and making them real!
- Most recently, our attorneys, Bickerstaff, Heath Delgado and Acosta, and Hursch Blackwell, were instrumental in negotiating agreements with the property owners’ association, and navigating the City of Austin’s site plan approval and permitting processes, which had been complicated by the pandemic.
Figure 5. Our partners.
How do we pay for this?
The NYOS School Board and administration are focused on keeping the costs for the project reasonable while being equally focused on the quality of the new campus and preserving what is important about NYOS. The administrative staff has worked countless hours raising funds, exploring grant and funding opportunities, and consulting with our planning partners so the new campus publicly demonstrates that NYOS truly is not ordinary.
Our financial partners, Masterson Advisors and Frost Bank; our bond attorneys, Hutton, Andrews and Kurth have worked tirelessly to help us to secure the best possible financing option. Masterson Advisors has helped us to model financial projections to share with potential financing partners. Frost Bank has extended a line-of-credit to help us with pre-construction expenses.
As a result of these efforts, NYOS is grateful for the partnership with the Equitable Facilities Fund (EFF). We closed a loan with EFF in mid-May for just over $25 million. EFF offered a low interest rate for a 30-year term. Because of the favorable financing terms, NYOS expects to save $9 million over the course of the loan! Those savings will be invested back into the school to improve our educational program.
All our partners have been instrumental in helping us to realize our campus. However, several have been key in not just helping us build our campus, but in helping us do this expansion right!
- the Charter School Growth Fund provided the money necessary to initiate and fund the planning phase of the project;
- Bellwether Education Partners, working with the Walton Family Foundation and the Texas Charter Schools Association, sponsored a Strategic Growth Institute which provided services and opportunities to help NYOS strategically plan the expansion to meet our goals within the community’s parameters, and to better understand our fundraising needs; and
- The KLE Foundation will match funds raised by the NYOS community on a 4 to 1 basis, providing up to $2.1M to fund those aspects of the plan not typically covered by construction costs, like the advanced hiring of staff or the acquiring the instructional technology to meet the needs of new students. These generous funds are critical as they will help preserve the NYOS way. So, if your family is able, please support NYOS’ fundraising efforts. For every $1 raised, NYOS receives an additional $4 from these matching funds.
- After many hours of work and meetings, the design and planning phases of the facility are complete, the engineering work on the site continues, and the permitting work with the city has resulted in the green light to begin digging!
- We have secured $25M of financing with the Equitable Facilities Fund, an organization committed to providing accessible funding for charter schools.
- The construction documents were finalized; construction bidding completed, and a contractor has been secured.
- Ground-breaking took place July 30, and heavy machinery is already pushing dirt around.
- A group of new teachers were hired for the 20-21 school year. They will intern with current teachers to learn how NYOS operates. Thus, they will be better prepared to fill the need for new teachers when the first group of additional students arrive, in 2021-22.
- A recruiting and onboarding specialist has been hired to help fill the increased need for staff and make their transition and acculturation into NYOS as seamless as possible.
- In the belief that NYOS should be a good neighbor and good citizen of the community, we are working with the local neighborhood associations and the property owners’ association to ensure the expanded NYOS’ campus is consistent with community expectations and serves as a resource for the local neighborhoods.