by Benjamin Herold
for the Notebook and WHYY/NewsWorks
The District is paying an estimated total of $1,776,832 to completely subsidize the facilities costs of charter operator Universal Companies in two District-owned buildings this school year.
The costs cover 14 District staffers across the two buildings, including three building engineers, four custodial assistants, and seven general cleaners. Services being provided free of charge by the District this year also include utilities, trash pickup, and cleaning and building engineer supplies.
On Friday, after months of delay, District officials announced they had reached a resolution with Universal on a long-standing dispute about facilities license agreements at the two South Philadelphia schools, which were both awarded to Universal last year as part of the District’s Renaissance Schools initiative.
Universal will pay nothing to operate in Audenried and Vare for the 2011-12 school year. Next year, Universal will continue to receive the same services and pay a total of $500,000 to operate in the two buildings - $300,000 for Audenried and $200,000 for Vare - with the District picking up the balance. The balance of the cost assumed by the District next year is again expected to easily exceed $1 million.
Those terms are for the next 12 months only, said District spokesman Fernando Gallard.
"We want to revisit this in one year," Gallard said. "The agreement might change."
Though not yet formally executed, the deal was announced Friday, before the School Reform Commission’s vote to award Universal management of Creighton Elementary. Creighton will be Universal's fifth Renaissance charter school.
Universal officials declined to comment on the facilities deal at Audenried and Vare until the agreement is signed.