A Meridian charter school that has almost quadrupled in size since opening plans to build a new facility.
Compass Public Charter School is looking to build a two-story, 68,000-square-foot building on the northeast corner of West Franklin and South Black Cat roads. The new site is scheduled to open in fall 2019, pending city approval.
To pay for construction, Compass ran a $12 million private bond with a 30-year lifespan.
Compass, a public school charted by the state, is not part of the West Ada School District and does not get funding from public bonds run by the district, such as the $95 million bond voters approved in March.
Compass operates an elementary school in a building it purchased in 2009 on West Cherry Lane in Meridian. For its secondary school, Compass leases space in the former University of Phoenix building off Interstate 84.
High school and middle schoolers are scheduled to move into the new building in fall 2019, and elementary grades are slated to follow a year later. Over the next two years, Compass plans to sell its elementary building and add 50,000 square feet at the new campus, bringing all grades to one campus.
Since Compass opened in 2005, it has grown from roughly 250 students to over 900 students. By 2025 the school plans to serve 1,400 students, said school administrator Kelly Trudeau. The school receives applications from 650 to 700 new students per year, she said.
Compass gets funding from the state for student enrollment and attendance. It also gets some funding from the state for a percentage of the statewide average amount of bond and plant facility levies per student, which covers roughly a quarter of the school’s facility costs — not including the cost the school will be paying on the new bond, Trudeau said.
Compass has been sub-leasing a building from the Apollo Education Group — the company that operates University of Phoenix — for five years. Trudeau said the rent goes up each year, from $320,000 in year one to $425,000 today. The lease expires in October 2019.
Compass had considered buying the building. “Owning a new building is more fiscally responsible than renting,” Trudeau said.
However, she said, the building owners weren’t interested in negotiating a sale last year, so staff decided on a new facility.
Eventually, Compass plans to build an athletic complex including a track and soccer field. No timeline for that project has been set.
Compass is getting a funding boost from the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation’s “20 in 10 campaign,” which funds high-performing charter schools as they increase enrollment. The 10-year campaign, launched in 2015, seeks to fund 20,000 new students in participating charter schools. Compass is receiving funding to add 732 students by the campaign’s end in 2025. According to Trudeau, Compass receives a little under $2,500 per new student — a one-time award spread out over four years.
That money is being used to bring new staff members on slowly, buying new equipment and building curriculum, Trudeau said.
“In order to maintain culture and academic performance, growth has to happen gradually,” she said.
When it opened, Compass had 20 staff members. By 2025, the school plans to employ 99 staff members.
Trudeau said Compass has been very intentional about how they facilitate culture in the school, including conducting trainings at the beginning of each school year with students.
She said the school only has one hard-and-fast rule, which is “feel free to do anything that doesn’t cause any problems for you, me or anyone else.” She said Compass tries to explain the reasons behind any rule and “build relationships with kids and talk with them about what is logical.”
Compass continues to see a steady number of families on the waiting list, Trudeau said. The list is wiped clean each year, and families who didn’t get in must reapply.
“(The number of applications) doesn’t seem to go down,” Trudeau said. “There is still that interest for a different option.”
By 2025, Trudeau anticipates Compass will offer four classes per grade at the elementary and middle school levels, and between three to four classes per grade at the high school level.
There are a number of alternative public high schools in the Meridian area. Trudeau said the most common grade for students to leave Compass is after eighth grade. When high schoolers were still housed at Compass’ Cherry Lane campus, Trudeau said roughly 50 percent of students left after eighth grade. She said the addition of the campus south of I-84 has increased retention to 70 percent.
Trudeau said students might be less likely to leave because of the new facility which will provide high schoolers with more opportunities, as well as giving them cafeteria and gymnasium space which they don’t have at the building they’re leasing near I-84.
Right now Compass offers high schools students nine dual credit electives. Students will complete a general education certificate through College of Western Idaho, allowing them to transfer to any college in Idaho and have their general education requirements completed.
The land where the new school is located is farther west than the building the school is leasing. Trudeau said Compass will probably extend its busing routes farther west.
Compass’ current bus boundaries extend to Chinden Boulevard in the north, Victory Road in the south, Black Cat Road in the west and Locust Grove Road in the east.
The Meridian Planning and Zoning Commission will hold a public hearing for Compass’ application at 6 p.m. June 21 at Meridian City Hall, 33 E. Broadway Ave.