Bonita Springs Charter School acquires for $13.5 million the site it has leased

Lexey Swall/Staff
Third grade students Andrew Noel, center, and Briette Nina-Lavayan, right, show their solution for a math problem to a classmate as they prepare for the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) at Bonita Springs Charter School in April 2012. A report done by the Florida Department of Education shows that students in charter schools tend to score better on the FCAT than students in traditional public schools. Bonita Springs Charter School, an A+ school, is one of the best examples of the study.

Photo by LEXEY SWALL, Naples Daily News // Buy this photo

Lexey Swall/Staff Third grade students Andrew Noel, center, and Briette Nina-Lavayan, right, show their solution for a math problem to a classmate as they prepare for the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) at Bonita Springs Charter School in April 2012. A report done by the Florida Department of Education shows that students in charter schools tend to score better on the FCAT than students in traditional public schools. Bonita Springs Charter School, an A+ school, is one of the best examples of the study.

— The land underneath Bonita Springs Charter School has changed hands, but the managers of the privately operated school say nothing else will change with the multimillion-dollar sale.

"We don't have any current plans for expansion. This was an opportunity where we were able to change from a lease agreement to an ownership agreement, which ultimately benefits the students," said Colleen Reynolds, a spokeswoman for Charter Schools USA, which manages the tuition-free school and nearly 50 others in five states.

Land records show Bonita charter's land and its two buildings off Old 41 Road recently sold for $13.53 million. The property, at 25380 Bernwood Drive, was owned by the estate for James Bernet in Ohio. Bernet owned Development Associates and Bernwood Enterprises Inc. and developed the business park where the school is located. He died years ago.

The new owner of the property is Red Apple at Bonita Springs, a company related to Red Apple Development in Fort Lauderdale.

Red Apple is the development arm for Charter Schools USA, but Reynolds emphasized there are no plans for new construction at Bonita charter. At one time, there were talks of adding a high school, but she said a market study years ago found it wasn't viable.

"We don't have any land to add a high school," Reynolds said.

The property that changed hands is 7.3 acres and the two buildings that came with it total 87,430 square feet.

"We did not purchase any additional land for future expansion," Reynolds said.

She said the decision was made to buy the land because it was being sold by the trustee of Bernet's estate.

"By owning the facility, we are able to ensure the long-term viability of (the school) in this location, reduce lease expenses typical in a third-party lease, and to ensure we can invest in the building's continued care and upgrade as a 21st century learning environment," Reynolds said.

The land and buildings sold for about $160 per square foot.

"They paid current fair market value," said Randy Thibaut, president of Land Solutions Inc. in Fort Myers. "They didn't steal it."

__ Connect with Laura Layden at www.naplesnews.com/staff/laura_layden

© 2012 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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