Thirteen months after Bulloch Academy launched the public phase of a $5.7 million capital campaign for facility expansion, the fundraising effort is reportedly within sight of its goal, and moved closer last week with notification of a $350,000 grant from an unnamed organization.
Meanwhile, the walls and roof are up on the academy's auxiliary gym, expected to be complete in November. After the gym opens, construction will start on the more costly part of the project, the new front academic building to include a cafeteria-auditorium, a new media center and new office suite. When connected to the existing wings, this structure will also provide a single entry point to the entire school for improved security. Then, renovations will turn the former cafeteria, media center and office spaces into additional classrooms.
All of this, plus work also well underway to link Bulloch Academy for the first time to Statesboro's city water and sewer systems, is what the donations are funding.
"You know, you never want to say that all your money is raised, but I would say we are definitely towards the end of our campaign," Dr. Ruthie Pannell Crider, marketing co-chair for BA's Cornerstone Capital Campaign, said this week.
Still to begin, in the near future, is an in-kind phase of the campaign, seeking donations of material and furnishings.
Crider, a local emergency room physician, and co-chair Dr. Marie Wall, a local dentist, are also members of the academy's board, and like other board members, parents of BA students.
When board members, school staff and volunteers gathered in August 2018 to announce the public phase of the campaign, BA Board of Trustees Chairman Mike Anderson, also the campaign chair, said the committee had already secured more than $4 million in donations and pledges, amounting to more than 70 percent of the goal.
Since then, more of the pledges have turned into money in the bank and more commitments and direct gifts have been received.
"When our friends saw the dedication of our community, families and board, they decided this was the type of project they could support," Anderson said this week, in the campaign's press release about the $350,000 grant.
The grant, or gift, was not something that Bulloch Academy's campaigners just happened across.
“We’re very excited," said BA Head of School Leisa Houghton. " We applied for it actually last school year, and the grant representatives came down and they toured and they interviewed us and students, and one of the stipulations though is we don’t name the people who gave the grant.”
Crider said the donors wanted to be listed as "a friend," as she also noted the stipulation of anonymity.
"It’s such a big project that we were trying to look for sources of financial support from outside even our own close network, and this opportunity became available and there was a lot of work and due diligence that went into securing this gift," Crider said.
The source is an organization, one that gives to nonprofit organizations of various kinds, not all of them schools and not on the basis of religious affiliation, Houghton said when asked these things. It is not an individual or a family, she said.
"We’re just so blessed to have such great support from all different types of stakeholders," Houghton said. "You know, we have trustees, we have business donors, we have parents, grandparents, and it’s just been a great way that everyone has come together,” she said.
Now some physical results are visible in more than one direction, as the project under Pope Construction's management, and designed by architect Craig Buckley, moves forward.
The new auxiliary gym, which will not replace the school's main gym, will accommodate physical education classes, as well as basketball practices while main gym is in use for games, Houghton said. Bulloch Academy has middle school and even elementary school basketball programs, not just high school teams, and the wrestling program is active during the same season, she noted.
So she is among those eager to see the new gym open.
“We’re expected to be able to have our certificate of occupancy and everything in early November," Houghton said. "The outside shell is all up and now they’re working on the inside, finishing.”
Meanwhile, work continues on the water and sewer pipeline extension.
Statesboro City Council last year approved spending $100,000 in city money on the extension, with the understanding that Bulloch Academy will pay a larger share of the cost. Officials predicted the city will recoup $130,000 from BA’s connection fees and water bills over five years. But the academy was expected to spend another $95,000 on the city water mains, and also provided an easement so that the city's mains can be extended onward to Veterans Memorial Parkway.
The on-campus portion of the water system will probably cost another $200,000 to $300,000, Houghton said. The connections and a lift station will replace the school's own deep well and several septic tanks.
Room to grow
Even so, the gym and water system account for only about $800,000 to $900,000 of the overall $5.7 million project, she said. The rest is the expected cost of the new front building and the renovations of the existing wings.
This is expected to add 12 to 15 classrooms. The largest private school in Bulloch County, BA is operating near its current capacity, with a record 587 students enrolled in prekindergarten through 12th grade.
At last year's campaign launch, school leaders predicted that the expansion would allow for growth to almost 900 students.
This summer, trees were removed and some grading done for the front building, and this area has been fenced off while school life continues around it. But final drawings and permitting still have to be completed.
Asked how close the Cornerstone Campaign is to its goal, Frank Hook, director of capital giving and major gifts, said he didn't know a percentage.
"We are very close," Hook said.
He said he will soon transition to also asking for in-kind donations, in addition to cash pledges.
"I will work with brick companies and concrete companies and other construction people and painting people and dirt-moving people and anybody that can help the school from a gift of in-kind services," he said.
Hook can be reached through the school, at (912) 764-1000 or firstname.lastname@example.org.