BLACKFOOT — The corner of Riverside Plaza has been home to the Plaza Twin Theater, Bradbury College, the Blackfoot Bookstore and before that, sports cards were traded in this space.
Coming Fall 2013, plans are for a new charter school, Bingham Academy, to fill the corner space at Riverside Plaza.
Fred Ball, project director for the charter high school and administrator of the Blackfoot Charter Community Learning Center, said the board hopes to receive authorization next week from the Idaho Public Charter School Commission.
The proposed Bingham Academy would be a four-year high school with an emphasis on college and career readiness.
Greg Sigerson, chair of the Bingham Academy Founding Board, acknowledged the $199,680 check presented to Bingham Academy on Thursday. This three-year start-grant was awarded through the Charter School Program of the U.S. Department of Education. For three years, Bingham Academy will receive this amount of money on the condition that the charter high school is approved.
Bingham Academy is the only school in Idaho to ever receive a direct federal start-up grant. It hopes to open its doors next fall.
"This is a strong indication of the solid organization and quality we will offer in our curriculum," said Sigerson.
"We are in the final stage of presenting our petition to the idaho Public Charter School Commission for approval," he said. "This approval is necessary in order to secure the grant."
Money from the start-up grant can only be used for software, computers and curriculum needs, said board member Pat Kolbet. The start-up grant will also support the administrator's salary for his/her first year.
Kolbet wrote the application for this grant.
"I scan the federal register every few days for every grant I can find," she said.
Nearly 700 schools across the U.S. applied for this grant, Kolbet said. All eligibility requirements were met by 68 schools but only 18 schools in seven states received these grants. Six schools were in Oregon; Bingham Academy was the only school in Idaho to receive this grant.
An additional $200,000 grant is available from the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation once the charter is authorized.
Plans are to lease space in the Riverside Plaza and to renovate the 17,000 square foot space into classrooms, locker space and a small gymnasium. Zac Fillmore of MBA Construction in Blackfoot will be in charge of renovation.
Speaking of the need for a charter high school, Sigerson said, "I'm really doing this for my son, who is a second grader. "He is in a charter school now and I love the interaction the teachers have with my son, my wife and me."
Brian and Angelina Thelin were two people who worked to bring in a charter school to Blackfoot.
"We started this project because I know enough people who needed it," said Angelina Thelin. "Parents deserve a choice," said Brian Thelin. "One size does not fit all."