Eagle charter school faces debt, closure

Another charter school faces a deep financial crisis — and this one could affect Idaho’s largest public school district.

The North Star Charter School in Eagle is facing a $640,000 shortfall, and options include trying to refinance its heavy debt load; folding into the Meridian School District; or closing altogether. That move could displace some 620 elementary students and 300 secondary students — and middle school space in Meridian is at a premium, according to the Idaho Statesman.

The financial woes facing North Star are not unprecedented, and rooted in facilities costs.

According to the Statesman, about 28.5 percent of the school’s budget is consumed by debt service on facilities, about four times the average for a public school. North Star broke ground in 2008 on a school expected to cost $7 million, with bonds at 6.75 percent. The school wound up costing $11.75 million, and bonds came in at 9.75 percent.

The news comes as Gov. Butch Otter considers a bill that could award charter schools $1.4 million in unprecedented state stipends for facilities cost. While the stipends are expected to increase in future years, the first-year payments come to roughly $34,000 per school.

North Star, a K-12 school, opened in the fall of 2003. The school was founded by Reed DeMordaunt, who now serves as chairman of the House Education Committee. DeMordaunt has not served on the board for several years, his wife, Gayann, said Monday.

The DeMordaunts have two children attending North Star.