In October 2014, Wissahickon Charter School (WCS), a high-performing Philadelphia K-8 school, opened the doors on its second campus. Serving 478 students, the expansion increases the school’s total enrollment to 956 students.
WCS focuses on the environment as an integrating theme for K-8 instruction. Over the past ten years, WCS has become one of the highest-performing charter schools in Philadelphia and has proven that its environmentally-focused curriculum can help students achieve significant academic gains within an urban context. In the last three years, WCS has consistently outperformed the Philadelphia School District in math and reading. Reinvestment Fund has worked with WCS since 2002 and was the school’s first lender. Reinvestment Fund financed the school’s original campus four times, including its 2006 expansion to middle school grades.
In 2013, Reinvestment Fund provided $12.5 million in New Markets Tax Credits (NMTC) with JPMorgan Chase as the equity provider, to support the construction of the new facility for the second campus. Reinvestment Fund also provided $10.2 million in leverage financing (with participation from Nonprofit Finance Fund) and a $2.5 million Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program bridge loan.
The Awbury Campus is a collaboration with Mount Airy USA, a local non-profit community development corporation that owns the property and is leasing the new facility to WCS. The NMTC financed development resulted in a new 48,170 sq. ft. facility that includes 18 classrooms, rooms for art, music classes and a computer lab, as well as a cafeteria, kitchen, and a 5,000 square foot gymnasium. The new facility is adjacent to the 55-acre Awbury Arboretum, which functions as an outdoor classroom. Several nonprofit partners, including Weavers Way Co-op and the Tacony-Frankford Watershed, are collaborating with WCS to incorporate food preparation and living a healthy lifestyle into the curriculum.