Mobile County Public Schools and the Barton Academy Foundation held an official ceremony Thursday to kick off the interior renovations for the new Barton Academy for Advanced World Studies.
Ben M. Radcliff Contractor, Inc., recently started the work, which is scheduled to be completed in time for the state-of-the-art school to open its doors in August of 2021.
The project began with $4.2 million in extensive exterior renovations completed by the Mobile County Board of School Commissioners to both Barton Academy and the adjacent Yerby building. The Barton Academy Foundation secured $14 million in donations and New Markets historic tax credits for the interior work.
“We are pleased with the work that the Barton Foundation has been able to do to raise funds to establish the Barton Academy of Advanced World Studies. This truly has been a unique effort and a great example of public-private partnership that will truly benefit our students,” said Mobile County Public Schools Superintendent Chresal Threadgill. “We are looking forward to returning Barton Academy to its original purpose as a school. We know it will be a world-class school that will make the entire Mobile region proud.”
Since 2012, the Barton Academy Foundation has worked to secure funding needed to transform Barton’s interior – most recently used as administrative office space – into a technologically advanced, 21st-century academic institution.
“This has been a long road, and we couldn’t be happier to reach this milestone,” Elizabeth Stevens, BAF president, said. “For 10 years, the BAF board, our donors and Mobile County Public Schools focused on the end goal of returning students into Barton Academy for the first time in more than 50 years. That will soon be a reality.”
BAF raised $5.2 million in cash and pledges. The campaign’s top donors were: the Ben May Charitable Trust, $1.27 million; the J.L. Bedsole Foundation, $500,000; and the Hearin-Chandler Foundation, $500,000. Other gifts of $200,000 or more were from: Crampton Trust, Daniel Foundation of Alabama, Mobile City Council, Mobile County Commission, Dr. Monte L. Moorer Foundation and the Wayne D. McRae Fund of the Community Foundation of South Alabama. Almost 450 other foundations, businesses and individuals contributed.
With the help of AMCREF Community Capital as its tax credit advisor, $8 million of tax credit equity from New Markets Tax Credits (NMTC), Federal Historic Tax Credits and State Historic Tax Credits helped the foundation reach its $14 million goal. AMCREF brought in as partners United Bank, USBank and Brownfield Revitalization as tax-credit funders.
United Bank provided the bridge funding allowing the foundation to leverage the historic tax credit equity and multi-year pledges to close funding and begin construction.
The AlabamaSAVES Program, sponsored by the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, Energy Division, provided $2 million in financing for energy conservation measures including LED lighting, energy efficient HVAC systems and energy efficient water heaters for the cafeteria.
Barton Academy for Advanced World Studies will enroll about 300 students in grades six through nine. This first-of-its-kind school will provide authentic learning experiences integrating various subjects and challenging students to solve real-world problems rather than learning solely through textbooks. Barton Academy will offer multiple foreign languages, advanced fine arts and entrepreneurial learning with a strong global emphasis.
While Barton is an amazingly restored 1830s landmark on the outside, the interior will be a state-of-the-art learning environment rich in technology and innovations. Collaboration labs and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) labs will focus on activities relating to students’ real lives and future careers.
Students must apply for the school – similar to application for a magnet school – and will need to meet certain academic criteria. Application details will be announced soon.
Barton Academy for Advanced World Studies will be a valuable recruiting tool for the city of Mobile and Mobile County as officials look to attract new business and industry. A new school at Barton also will spark redevelopment in the area immediately surrounding it – an area largely bypassed by the revitalization transforming other downtown areas.