Another private school plans to move into a former public school building in far northwest Milwaukee, tipping the scales in the neighborhood further away from Milwaukee’s public schools.
Great Holy Temple Christian Academywhich operated a school further south at North 76th Street and West Silver Spring Drive, plans to uproot and relocate to the former MPS Fletcher Elementary building on North 95th Street, one block north of West Brown Deer Road.
The school is the educational outreach program of the Church of the Great Holy Temple of God in Christ, according to its website.
The zoning of the city commission tuesday approved the sale of the Fletcher Building to a developer, Robert Chandler’s Synergy Development Group, who will lease it to the school. The full Common Council is expected to consider final approval on April 19.
Since MPS buildings are owned by the City of Milwaukee, city officials control their sale according to a certain protocol.
After Fletcher closed in 2009 amid declining listings, the district used the building for storage but ultimately declared it surplus, giving city officials the go-ahead to solicit buyers.
Built in 1973, the one-story building covers 60,754 square feet and sits on nearly 9 acres. It was almost transformed into affordable housing in 2019, but the proposal fell through.
The new buyer is expected to pay $500,000 for the property, which was appraised in 2015 at $1.4 million, according to document of the city. Proceeds from the sale are donated to MPS.
Synergy Development Group planned to spend $5.3 million to renovate the existing building, add an early childhood academy, upgrade play areas, and install a lighted community basketball court.
Edward DeShazer, the school’s executive director, said the school plans to purchase Synergy’s property in about 10 years, assuming it will be in a better financial position to do so.
Under terms approved on Tuesday, Synergy and any future buyers of the property would not be allowed to seek exemptions from paying property taxes — something churches typically seek. Reversing these conditions in the future would require a two-thirds vote of the Common Council.
The school could compete with the MPS
The property is about two miles from four other private schools: Risen Savior Evangelical Lutheran School, the Institute of Technology and Academics, Granville Lutheran School, and New Testament Christian Academy.
Greater Holy Temple Christian Academy, along with the other private schools, participates in Milwaukee’s Parental Choice Program, allowing students to attend schools for free with tax-funded vouchers. All Greater Holy Temple students are currently part of this program.
The school bills itself as ‘rooted on a strong Christian foundation of morals and values’ with a Bible-based curriculum, and DeShazer said all students and staff should participate in the religious aspects of the school, including a church service weekly.
The city’s far northwest public school, Goodrich Elementary, has already felt competition from private schools. MPS recently gave the school $3 million to expand its classrooms, taking advantage of unfinished and unused basement space.
Approving the renovation plans, Superintendent Keith Posley said the addition would be important in helping the school retain students.
“It’s surrounded by premier and charter schools in this area and we need a building big enough to accommodate students from this area, and I think this is a golden opportunity to do that,” said Posley said at the time. .
Enrollment has fallen at Goodrich since the 2019-20 school year, according to data reported to the state, dropping from 362 to 301 students, while enrollment has also fallen across the district. Enrollments had increased at Goodrich in the previous two years, up from 334 in 2017.
Goodrich reports higher test scores than Greater Holy Temple but a lower overall score on its state bulletin because it ranked lower in terms of growth rate and attendance.
Goodrich reports serving significantly more students with disabilities, about 22.9% of the school’s population compared to 0.6% at Greater Holy Temple, according to state bulletin data. DeShazer said the school’s actual population of students with disabilities was higher, but did not provide a figure.
Great Holy Temple Christian Academy open in 2003 as an extension of the Greater Holy Temple Church of God in Christ at 4240 N. Green Bay Road, serving 57 students before growing and moving to the North 76th Street property in 2006.
DeShazer said Greater Holy Temple, which reported 485 students this school year from kindergarten through eighth grade, aims to enroll about 550 in its new location. They plan to leave the old location and move into the new one at the start of the next school year, he said.
At the new property, with the new Early Learning Academy, DeShazer said the school plans to have students as young as 4 months old.
In its current building on West 76th Street, Greater Holy Temple leases from MPS as it is another of the older buildings in the neighborhood. school pay MPS approximately $600,000 per year.
DeShazer said the school will pay less rent in its new, larger location.
DeShazer said the deal with Robert Chandler of Synergy Development Group, a personal friend of his, allowed the school to relocate without having to organize a fundraising campaign to purchase the building immediately.
“The relationship with MPS has been very good, but we have been looking for how to develop our program?” he said. “It’s a situation where all the stars have aligned at the right time.”