Two Rivers School charter application on hold pending building debt refinancing

In this August 2019 file photo, students and parents meet outside of Two Rivers Community School in Glenwood Springs.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Two Rivers Community School is taking another pause in its bid to re-charter under the Roaring Fork School District, until it can refinance its building loan.

At the same time, the Glenwood Springs-based school has its fallback plan in place — by virtue of re-authorization under the Colorado Charter School Institute — should things not work out with the district.

The CSI affirmed in mid-December that it’s prepared to extend a new five-year contract to the school starting with the 2020-21 school year.

The Roaring Fork school board earlier that month agreed to take its time with the district charter application in order to give it a more full review.

Two Rivers is now asking to postpone the timeline, which was to have resulted in a decision by the end of February, while it works to obtain a long-term loan on its 2016 building debt.

The school acquired $10 million in bonds that year in order to purchase the former postal facility in West Glenwood and to remodel and expand the building.

“Under the terms of our current note, the entirety of our debt will be called in November of 2023, which means we will need to secure a long-term financing deal before then,” Two Rivers Head of School Jamie Nims explained.

Two Rivers’ board of directors requested a postponement of the Roaring Fork school board’s review of the charter application until that can happen.

“We want to provide them with the security of having long-term financing in place to cover our facility debt,” Nims said. “While we are entirely confident that we will be successful in securing refinancing, we don’t want to risk a denial from the Roaring Fork board because of any concerns with the pending refinance.” 

Two Rivers has already prepared a formal request for proposals, with help from financing consultants Choice Advisors.

“We hope to have multiple proposals for bank loans and bond financing before the end of the month,” Nims said. “Once we have offers in place, we will request the board formally review our application.”

The school district would not assume any debt if Two Rivers were to default on the loan, Roaring Fork Schools Superintendent Rob Stein said. But the district’s policy for authorizing charter schools does state that the application must “provide necessary evidence that the plan for the district charter school is economically sound,” he noted.

“We and the school mutually agree that there is too much financial uncertainty under the current debt structure to feel confident that the school meets this condition,” Stein said. “We agreed to wait until the school restructures its debt before proceeding with the application.”

Last fall, Two Rivers applied concurrently with both the state and the school district for either re-authorization under the state, or re-chartering under the district.

Nims previous stated that there could be some benefits to becoming a district charter versus a state charter, including opportunities for shared resources and possibly tax revenue-sharing.

A key consideration in the charter negotiations with the school district is whether the charter school would be able to share in any future tax dollars that district voters may approve.

Meanwhile, the CSI’s board has already voted to approve a new five-year contract for Two Rivers. That’s the longest term the state can legally award, Nims said, “and the best contract we’ve been offered to date.”

Two Rivers operates as a K-8 charter school, drawing students from both the Roaring Fork and Garfield Re-2 school districts. The school utilizes multi-age classrooms and a “place-based,” experiential learning model, with a focus on second-language acquisition and multicultural studies.

The school currently has about 350 students, which is just short of capacity for the newly renovated and expanded school building on Center Drive in West Glenwood.

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