MONTESSORI SCHOOL OF CASPER
Setback in Casper New School Construction Finds Happy Ending
When the Montessori School of Casper set out to build a new school, the mood was one of excitement, hope and a move in the right direction.
The Preschool through Kindergarten non-profit, parent cooperative in Casper was originally located in a less desirable section of town. The school administration’s idea was to rehabilitate an old warehouse in the Old Yellowstone District of Downtown Casper, which would give them a beautiful new space in an up-and-coming part of town in which to move the school. It is a part of Casper that the city is embracing as a vibrant area to live and work.
“To compliment this amazing [Casper] downtown,” said the city of Casper, “city leadership and committed neighborhood stakeholders created the Old Yellowstone District - a redevelopment area adjacent to the downtown core - that will become a destination for the live, work, and play audience.”
Montessori School of Casper (MSC) decided to embrace the city’s charge with a progressive construction project, which would not only allow them to move from the old school to the expanded facility, but also increase space, improve the facility presence, and progress the quality of the education experience.
However, shortly after MSC began the project, they faced a setback that threatened their plan. They found themselves in a financial crunch.
“The timing of the loan was important because it arrived at time when we were having some liquidity challenges on the remodel project,” said Scott Wells, MSC treasurer. “The school needed additional funding in order to continue remodeling while waiting for other committed funds to be received.”
And so, MSC reached out to the Wyoming Women’s Business Center.
After thorough discussions and deliberation, the loan was underway. They received the financial assistance through the Wyoming Women’s Business Center “Childcare Loan Program”, which was a result of a Community Development Block Grant through the Wyoming Business Counsel. The Wyoming Women’s Business Center was awarded the contract. The program is intended for non-profit and for-profit child care operators to improve their facilities, increase their capacities and create jobs. Funds are intended to be used for facility improvements to increase capacities or meet licensing requirements.
“The staff at Wyoming Women’s Business Center was tremendous to work with during our deliberation process,” said Thea True-Wells, MSC board member, instrumental in researching and securing the WWBC loan/grant. “They provided guidance and were very upfront with their requirements and deadlines. That structure and guidance allowed us to take advantage of their well thought-out loan program.”
The loan to MSC, in total of $50,000, was submitted , underwritten and closed by the WWBC, written at 3% interest rate, payable over 6 years. It was interest-only for 6 months during the school’s construction period, allowing the remodel to continue while waiting for other committed funds to be received. MSC was required to maintain and/or create jobs, make timely payments, and provide the WWBC with annual financial information. Requirements were met at the end of 3 years, and half of the original loan amount was forgiven as a grant.
The loan was used to complete the new school remodel project that allowed them to move from the old school to the expanded facility. But it also had additional benefits.
“In turn, the grant helped us accomplish our goal of doubling our program and improving the facilities that young children learn in,” said True-Wells.
MSC received five Certification of Recognition awards from the Old Yellowstone District, City of Casper, and South Poplar Street Advisory Committee for the revitalization work to the Downtown Casper Community as a result of the remodel project, and an award from the Wyoming Chapter of the American Institute of Architecture for the design of the facility. The loan also resulted in the creation of 3 additional full-time jobs, and one additional part-time position.
“The esthetics of our new building and playground inspire the children and allow them to participate in activities that weren’t possible at our previous location,” said Administrator and Classroom Guide of 31 years, Deborah Savini. “Our bigger playground has allowed us to plant trees for the children and we can now plant gardens, giving the children the opportunity to learn about planting and growing vegetables, berries and flowers. The children care for and harvest these gardens themselves. The larger playground and play structure give the children the opportunity and room to run, climb, slide, and play ball.”
Dawn Kropatsch, administrative assistant at MSC, is also gratified by the outcome of the process.
“Our new building has now afforded us enough space to have an after-school Spanish club, and the convenient downtown location has enabled us to walk to places like the Library and the Science Zone,” said Kropatsch. “We’ve been able to take advantage of the Platte River Parkway and can walk to nearby art galleries. Our downtown location has also brought in more walk in visitors who want to see the facility and learn about Montessori.
“We are proud that our new school is now a place of learning, laughter, and beauty in the heart of our great community.”