Barton Academy Foundation reaches $14 million goal!
Renovation has begun on innovative new school
Students will soon be learning and building memories again at Barton Academy. The Barton Academy Foundation (BAF) has reached its $14 million goal. Groundbreaking on construction was held June 11.
When Barton was built in 1836, public education itself was an innovative concept. When school starts in 2021, Barton Academy for Advance World Studies will use innovation to challenge students to learn globally.
“This has been a long road, and we couldn’t be happier to reach this milestone,” Elizabeth P. Stevens, BAF president, said. “For 10 years, our board, our donors and Mobile County Public Schools focused on returning students to Barton Academy for the first time in 50 years. That will soon be a reality.”
“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.”
The Board of School Commissioners completed an extensive $4.2 million renovation of the exterior of the Barton and Yerby buildings in 2015. Since 2012, BAF has worked to secure the remaining $14 million needed to transform Barton’s interior into 21st-century academic institution.
BAF raised $5.2 million in cash and pledges. The campaign’s top donor, the Ben May Charitable Trust, accelerated the effort with a $1.27 million challenge grant. The J.L. Bedsole Foundation and the Hearin-Chandler Foundation each gave $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 tax credit advisor AMCREF Community Capital, $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 United Bank, USBank and Brownfield Revitalization as tax-credit funders. United Bank provided bridge funding allowing the foundation to leverage tax credit equity and multi-year pledges to close funding and begin construction.
The AlabamaSAVES Program of the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, provided a $2 million loan for energy conservation including LED lighting, energy efficient HVAC systems and water heaters.
“Financing this historic effort was clearly one of Mobile’s most complicated preservation and education projects ever. As with some other important development projects boosting downtown’s economy, we turned to state and federal tax credits to make Barton’s comeback possible,” Stevens explained. “Mobile County Public Schools cannot receive tax credits because the system doesn’t pay taxes. However, the Barton Foundation can accept and then sell or transfer tax credits and use those funds to renovate the school.”
School commissioners recently approved a bid on the interior work with Ben M. Radcliff Contractor, Inc., and construction should begin in June. The school will open in August 2021.
This first-of-its-kind school will enroll about 300 students in grades six through nine. Barton will challenge students to solve real-world problems rather than learning solely through textbooks and offer multiple foreign languages, advanced fine arts with a strong global emphasis.
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 in fall 2020 or winter 2021.
For information on the application process, contact Mobile County Public Schools here.
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We've met our goal!
As this remarkable campaign has drawn to a close, I am struck by how gratifying it is to have been involved with an effort to save a critically important and iconic local, and state, landmark such as Barton. I look back and can only surmise why it was that we were able to do this when other, equally significant structures, have fallen to the wrecking ball, to neglect, or to the fires of barbaric vandals. One can only imagine a city still boasting of it’s magnificent Custom House, it’s grand clubs on Bienville Square, it’s spectacular central Post Office; not to mention the German Relief Hall, Police Tower, and countless Government Street mansions. Think of that fascinating district of ancient houses and warehouses leading from Royal down to Water, Commerce, and Front Streets. All of these have been swept away in a single lifetime, and we are vastly poorer for it.
But Barton Academy is saved, and this grand testament to Mobile’s pioneering venture into public education will once again welcome children into the heart of the City; it will once again be a jewel adorning our historic main street. For this exquisite outcome I can only offer my humble thanks to the hundreds of individuals who chose to engage with this enterprise, and to the visionary foundations of this city and this state who made material commitments to a better life for our citizens. And to the Mobile County Commission, and the City Council of the City of Mobile: thank you for your vision and confidence. And to Mobile County Public Schools, thank you for not being afraid to break new ground, and to pursue new avenues in the quest to better the experiences of the children of Mobile County. Bravo to you all.
– John D. Peebles
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Donors of $1,000 or more will be listed on a permanent donor board inside Barton Academy. Please consider increasing your gift to $1,000. For information about your current total, or check our donor list here. or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Barton Academy Foundation board members at construction groundbreaking, June 11, 2020, left to right: Allan Gustin, Jaime Betbeze, Karen Outlaw Atchison, Stephen Carter, Elizabeth P. Stevens, Chresal D. Threadgill, Dr. Carolyn Lee Taylor, Schley Rutherford, Jr., Denise Browning, John Peebles, and Geri Moulton.