After winning an Academy Award for Best Actress last month, Meryl Streep donated $10,000 to Segue Institute for Learning, a public charter school in Central Falls, R.I., in honor of fellow nominee Viola Davis, a Central Falls native whose niece attends Segue. The donation boosted the school's effort to raise enough money to buy the building it currently occupies, which the bankrupt city is selling as part of its financial recovery plan.
Segue Institute hopes to buy the plot of land containing both the school's current building and a recreation center next door, said Angelo Garcia, founder and director of the school. The recreation center would provide additional classroom space and serve as a center for performing arts. Garcia said he hopes Streep's donation will serve as a "springboard to find others who will match it and contribute." The school is looking to raise $250,000 to buy the buildings and $1.2 million to $2 million to renovate the recreation center. If they do not receive enough donations, the school is considering taking out loans.
Robert Flanders, the state-appointed receiver overseeing Central Falls' recovery, said his office plans to relocate the school and sell the current building as part of the city's effort to consolidate its land to "defray the costs of running the city, its buildings and school system." Flanders said his office has not determined potential locations. His office also plans to combine school and city administrations, provide tax cuts for businesses improving the value of their property and share some public services with Pawtucket.
Though Segue Institute currently holds the only formal bid on the school building, others also have expressed interest, Flanders said.
Segue Institute does not yet have the money to pay for the bid, Garcia said, but it is working through social media to increase donations.
The Central Falls library also recently received celebrity attention - Alec Baldwin donated $10,000 to help preserve the local library last fall.
The school hopes to receive a decision from the city soon, since it must be ready when the new school year begins in August, said Lucy Rios, chairperson of Segue Institute's board of directors. The board established a Building Committee to oversee the sale, and the school makes weekly calls to the city to stay abreast of the process.
Segue Institute was founded in 2009 as a community-started charter school to provide students from sixth to eighth grade with individual attention, academic rigor and parental collaboration.
"(This building) is where we started, and there is room to grow," said Nelly Hoffins Vargas, a parent and board member at Segue Institute. Hoffins Vargas said she fears a new building might not be as suited to the school's needs, and it might not feel as much like home to the students as the current building.
Flanders said he is not sure yet whether the building will be sold to Segue Institute or another buyer, but he assured that Segue Institute will still have "a home in Central Falls."