As many of you know, we have leased our facility since 2007, and we have spent the last 18 months or so in active negotiations with the Archdiocese for a 20-year lease. Because we have been happy with the location, if not always with the maintenance and safety of the building, we have been moving forward with those negotiations and initial work toward a capital campaign in order to complete seismic, other life safety, and deferred maintenance upgrades. While this is a lot of money to spend on a building that we do not own, I was looking forward to that lease for many reasons. I have already moved the school three times, and I was hopeful that we had found a place we could improve and stay in for a long time.
However, another facility opportunity has come along, and the school is poised--and I am thrilled--to move forward with it.
Over the years, people have asked many times about whether we would consider another space. The facilities committee has actively investigated several options in our area over the last few years, none of which were right for our community. I have always said that a site that would serve our needs wasn’t just going to fall from the sky. But late this summer, that is exactly what happened.
I received a call from Morva McDonald, the head of Giddens School, in late August. She let me know that her school had put an offer on a 1.5 acre site in Seattle, just south of I-90. It was more land than her school needed, and we began discussions of the possibility of the two schools partnering to share the land, to co-locate, and to share large spaces such as a gym, playfield, and community gathering space.
We discussed, at that first meeting, other cities where schools co-locate and our own desire to keep the identities of the schools separate while exploring all of the economies possible in the partnership. Because Giddens is a long-time neighbor and friend of LWGMS---and another school with a commitment to a balance of social justice, social emotional learning, and academic focus--the places where we could align seemed clear. Because they are a preschool through fifth grade all-gender school, the places where we would remain separate also seemed clear.
The site itself is well-suited to LWGMS in many ways. It’s slightly south of our current location, and very close to our first two buildings, which were in Mount Baker and at the edge of the International District.
Since that meeting, a team of people have been working very hard to explore if this could work and to put this partnership together. The schools formed an LLC and worked with counsel to outline the terms of the partnership. The finance committees and business managers from both schools met with financial advisors and modeled the long-term costs associated with the site and articulating the long-term financial gain of owning our own building. Architects and facility committee members explored the constraints and possibilities of putting two schools on the lot, and necessary due diligence on the site was performed. The board chairs from both schools worked together, and we held a joint board information session earlier this month. Morva and I spent many hours learning more than I ever imagined I would know about real estate, financing, and the legal intricacies of an LLC. We have interviewed multiple architects, project managers, and other consultants. We hit a financing roadblock that looked like the end of the deal, and we climbed right over it. On November 2, the board approved moving forward to acquire the land, with unanimous support and exemplary vision for the future of the school. As of this past Friday, we officially took possession of the property. We will soon begin the process of design, permitting, and construction; our plan is to occupy the site in the summer of 2019. Together, we went from contemplating a challenging idea to understanding that it could work, to making it a reality--all quite quickly--but with a great deal of thought, care, and collaboration.
All that risk-taking, innovating, and working through obstacles that we are teaching the girls has been going on behind the scenes this fall, too.
I know you have questions. I am happy to answer them.