By Susan Marino, Lafayette Preparatory Academy, Executive Director
Lafayette Preparatory Academy is proud to announce that just two short years after moving into our new school home in Lafayette Square, we will be embarking on an expansion project to build top-tier school facilities that support and enhance our mission and strategic goals. Starting this summer, construction is expected to begin on $3.5 million in additions that will include a new 2-story, 10,000 sq. ft. middle school building for grades 5-8. The building will house eight classrooms and two innovative “maker spaces”— flexible, project-based learning areas.
Our current building will expand, too. A new 8,000 sq. ft. gymnasium (with a middle school regulation court and bleachers) will be built on top of the one-story section of our current building. This will enhance our PE curriculum and sports programming and will be a place to hold special events. The current building will be reconfigured for K-4th grade classrooms. This will allow us to re-establish a dedicated library and media center, designate the basement as the school cafeteria and music space, and create a second art room.
Our key partner in this project is Urban Improvement Company (UIC), our partner in developing and building the elementary school. Along with UIC, LPA staff and other partners have been working diligently for months to make this expansion a reality. We have secured a financing package that includes new market tax credits with the St. Louis Development Corporation. Two banks and a prominent educational financial lender are also partnering with LPA and UIC.
LPA will also be using its own equity funds and will raise additional funds to cover the technology build-out and other educational amenities that won’t be covered by this financing deal.
Meanwhile, the City has already approved many of the pre-construction and design plans. While final plans are still pending, we are working closely with UIC to map out how the construction schedule will impact our own school schedule and operations. We’re pushing for the most difficult phases of the project—like a portion of the gym addition—to occur during the summer months. All in all, we’re planning to open our newly expanded campus for the 2019-2020 school year.
We feel so much gratitude for the Lafayette Square community and their support to help LPA reach this milestone. We have the best neighbors and partners! While many have contributed, we would like to take a minute to highlight a few who have really gone above and beyond.
We begin with a million thanks to City Church for their ongoing support since before we even opened our doors (Downtown) in 2013. City Church members and leadership share their space with us for student assemblies, storage, guest presentations and student performances. They have been strong thought-partners and have dedicated their skills toward building the school in the early years. They rally large numbers of members for volunteer workdays that very often include difficult and dirty work. Their congregation rallies for school supply drives and food drives that benefit LPA students. Most recently, we made a call for food to send home with students over the weekends. They answered that call with intense generosity and added to our own community’s efforts, allowing us to send food home to more than 15 families each weekend since mid-March.
We’d also like to extend our gratitude to Andrea Heugatter at Looking Glass Designs who has also been a strong supporter of LPA. She hosted a school supply drive to support students who did not have what was needed to get a strong start to the school year. She has also hosted a shopping day, offering a portion of her profits to benefit LPA.
We are grateful to Candace Glass at Southtown Yoga and Elephant Power: Mindfulness and Yoga for Kids. She has been our guide for mindfulness for several years, and the benefits of mindfulness for our students and staff reaches across our whole school day. In addition to coaching us in mindfulness, Candace and the folks in her Yogive class donated 50 percent of their proceeds for the LPA playground!
In addition to those mentioned above, so many have been supportive of our success. We have leveraged this support to achieve great things since moving into our Lafayette Square building. Thank you to all of you who have been a part of our success and growth. We look forward to continued partnership for years to come!