Dakota County School Support
I am writing to ask your support in bringing Athlos Preparatory Academy to Dakota County for the Fall of 2016-2017. Our purpose is to build a free public charter school with emphasis on health and fitness to serve up to 1100 students and families in grades K-8. Though located on the western edge of Inver Grove Heights, the school would draw from throughout Dakota County also including Eagan, Apple Valley, Rosemount, Lakeville, and beyond. The benefits of increased physical activity to stimulate child development and counter the growing lifelong health challenges facing youth who grow up in a sedentary lifestyle are now becoming evident. Please take the time to read through this message or at least jump to the last paragraph where I outline why and how you can help!
The reason your support is important is that we have a purchase agreement on a site at 9725 Robert Trail South on the west end of Inver Grove Heights near Highway 3 (Robert Trail) and highway 149 to build the school. Our partner Athlos Academies is set to demolish the old abandoned warehouse on the site and build a multi-million dollar school. The challenge we are facing is that as a school, we would be tax exempt so the city council of Inver Grove Heights has expressed reluctance to change the zoning to allow a school because the city would lose the tax revenue. The city tax revenue in 2015 was $15,806.72 plus a portion of fiscal disparity which is a Met Council tax sharing program. We have offered a Payment in Lieu of Funds to the city as well as free use of our unique indoor turf on off hours for years to come but the council continues to be reluctant and appears to favor holding out for a tax paying entity. It is important to note that although the current owner continues to pay the commercial taxes, the site has been abandoned and for sale for approximately ten years. This will come to a vote in front of the city council at the September 28th meeting and requires a 4 out of 5 vote in order to gain approval.
How We Propose to Benefit IGH and Dakota County
We feel that the school would bring value to the area and Inver Grove Heights in the form of school choice as well as added economic, recreational, and quality of life benefits. This would include creating about 100 jobs, providing an indoor sports facility for residents of the isolated western edge of IGH, increased retail traffic to the struggling Argenta Hills retail development, and improving a section of the city that has been in need of beautification for some time. Though there are concerns with traffic at the intersection of highways 3 and 149, we have agreed to comply with all MNDOT recommendations for improvements. We have also offered the city of IGH free use of the facility on off-hours for the benefit of residents!
Impact On Your Taxes and Local Public Schools
Contrary to widely held misconceptions, a charter school will not increase your taxes or reduce state funding to the local public schools. However what it does is provide another free public school option to Dakota county families which means additional competition for local public schools. Dakota county continues to experience growth. Districts 196, 197, and 199 have all increased enrollment since 2010 and district 196 so much so that the district is considering building an additional school. District 196 superintendent Jane Berenz recently stated that "the district’s upcoming space needs are too great to address only with additions at existing schools".
Information About Charter Schools
Now for a little bit of background on charter schools and our school. Charter schools are public schools and are subject to all public laws and regulations governing public schools. This means that charter schools are tuition free, are open to anyone, and cannot discriminate in enrolling students. Charter schools do not cost the state or taxpayers any more money. In fact, they receive less funding than traditional public schools, because they cannot levy local taxes like a traditional public school. Each student's funding allowance remains the same and simply goes with the student wherever they enroll. This means that if a student chooses our school, we receive their funding along with the responsibility to educate them, minus local bond referrendum reflected on your property taxes. As a result, charter schools tend to educate students for less. For instance, in 2014-2015, the Eagan-Apple Valley-Rosemount school district, district 196 received $14,416.69 per student whereas we anticipate that our funding in 2016-2017 will be approximately $8,908.19 per student. I use district 196 for comparison because even though our school is proposed for Inver Grove Heights, that portion of IGH is actually located in the 196 school district.
Background on Our Proposed IGH School
I am a co-founder of the school along with eight board members who all reside in the south metro and bring a combination of backgrounds including business, accounting, and leadership. By state law, our school board retains full authority for school governance but we have partnered with Athlos Academies, a highly successful charter school service provider to help us build, market, and operate the school. Athlos Academies has a school in Brooklyn Park and has partnered with more than 20 schools across the country and the images above are from the Athlos school in Brooklyn Park.. The mission for our school is to educate the whole child by providing a balanced approach to educating children that include academic and intellectual development, health and physical education, and performance character. Research on multisensory education and the importance of health, fitness, and emotional intelligence on overall child development suggests that a whole child approach to school programming that balances and integrates these areas is most effective at preparing students for life. Our school schedule will feature a slightly longer school day so that we can incorporate outstanding academic learning and regular physical education and fitness activity while also focusing on the development of performance character. For more information on our proposed school, please visit www.athlosprep.org
Support Us Now!
The reason I am reaching out to you is that as a resident of Inver Grove Heights, your voice matters. Inver Grove Heights resident and former mayor Joe Atkins spoke in support of our proposed school at the last city council meeting. By signing this petition, you are telling the city council that you support all public schools including our proposed school and they should look beyond the tax differential to the greater value that we bring to Inver Grove Heights and Dakota County. Please act now by signing this petition as it makes a difference and we are under a strict deadline for the September 28th city council meeting. It is important that you indicate that you are a resident of IGH, preferably by including your address. ipetitions will NOT share your information with any third parties.
Please forward this message to spouses, friends, or family who reside in IGH and may support our school.
Finally, if you are willing to do more please reach out to council members or even come to the city council meeting on September 28th to voice your support, please let me know. Here is a link to contact IGH council members. IGH City Council
I am signing this petition in support of Athlos Preparatory Academy and encourage the IGH city council to consider rezoning the proposed site to allow for building of the school facility.