Erie Elementary Charter School (EECS) opened its doors in 2005 to provide another public school option for parents and families. Born out of the mission of Erie Neighborhood House, EECS focuses on the importance of heritage, cultural diversity and the importance of learning a second language (Spanish). EECS’ small classroom model and family feel provide the nurturing environment we believe students need to succeed.
EECS began in 2005 with just four classrooms: two kindergarten and two 1st grade. Since then, EECS has grown a grade each year, finally reaching our first graduating class this year, in 2013. Over the years we have seen standardized test scores increase, but more importantly we have seen our students grow into community leaders: successfully competing in science fairs, leading efforts to combat child labor, and developing into young adults who care for each other and the world around them. We can’t wait to see where they all end up.
As EECS grew, we struggled with space constraints and the constant need for space for small groups or one-on-one work. We knew we needed to move from our original leased building to something more permanent that could meet our evolving and expanding space needs.
As with most – if not all – nonprofits, EECS did not have the internal expertise to manage these complex transactions and projects. We needed a financing strategy and we needed help managing the expansion project. So we called IFF, a community development financial institution (CDFI), that specializes in helping nonprofits that serve low-income and special needs communities.
In addition to guiding us through the process of purchasing a school building—all the way through the design and construction phase—IFF helped us to secure the New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) financing that ensured we could complete the building on time and on budget. The NMTC equity investment of $3.6MM and low-interest-only payments for seven years were not only critical to the success of the project, but also our school and most importantly, our students.
Through IFF and the financing made possible through the NMTC Program, EECS was able to manage a sophisticated design and construction process as well as an overwhelmingly complex financial deal that ensured EECS could operate in a beautiful and space-effective building that will last us for years to come.