Batavia college prep school plan might be dead
The plan to open a private college prep high school this fall in Batavia is dead -- for now.
The Harbridge College Prep Academy, a vision of former Illinois education superintendent Michael Bakalis, was to be located in the historic Campana factory on nearly 12 acres at Route 31 and Fabyan Parkway.
The liberal arts school aimed to draw students from communities from Elgin south to Aurora, and western Naperville.
After four months of marketing using radio advertisements and direct mail to recruit students, only 40 students have applied to enroll.
"We just didn't have the applicants. We needed 100 students to open," said Bakalis, founder, president and chief executive officer of American Quality Schools, a nonprofit operating three charter school campuses in Chicago and five schools in Indiana. "If you don't have the applicants, you can't have the resources. If you can't have the resources, you can't open. It was a business decision."
The private school was expected to be funded entirely through tuition starting at $8,000 for the first year, and reduced by $1,000 in succeeding years. Officials had hoped to eventually grow into a four-year school with a maximum of 325 students.
The Campana factory -- built in 1936 and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979 -- needs extensive renovation to accommodate the school.
"We needed to know very early to either say go or no go," Bakalis said. "We couldn't wait until June or July for that to happen."
For now, the applicants have been notified about the change, he added.
Scott Buening, Batavia community development director, said officials hope the school will come to fruition with additional marketing.
It would take up a substantial chunk of the Campana building, which is zoned for mixed use and is less than 50 percent occupied with a couple of sports training facilities, artisan manufacturing, and a mattress store.
The building owner is trying to find additional tenants. While the school would provide only an incremental increase in property tax revenues for the city, it would help make the property more attractive to other tenants, Buening said.
Bakalis said the project could be delayed until fall 2016 or dropped entirely.
"We have not made a decision yet as to whether we will perhaps pursue it for 2016," he said. "It's a possibility. There is an interest and market there. We have to hunt to see whether our resources for marketing will allow us to do it for another year. It would have been a unique addition to Kane County."