When Micki O’Neil began working on the charter school authorization process for Chicago Public Schools (CPS) in 2011, she learned a lot about what students need from schools. By reviewing proposals for new schools, she identified gaps, learned best practices, and was inspired to bring her own school vision to fruition.
O’Neil went to Indonesia to focus on her proposal. She describes this time as a “tiny beginning.” After returning home, she worked full time for a year crafting her proposal for what would eventually become Foundations College Prep – a school in Chicago’s Roseland community that uses a blended learning model integrating technology into the classroom and curriculum.
Then she began working on recruiting school leaders, building a board, and finding a building. IFF was an early partner in this work, conducting site visits and identifying the school’s facility needs.
“We wouldn’t have had any access to capital to do the extensive renovations needed for the building [without IFF],” O’Neil said. “There was no working fire alarm, everything was out of code, and there were holes in the roof.”
IFF worked with Foundations during the summers to make renovations to the school. Then IFF purchased the building, enabling Foundations to be a tenant for their first three years of operations – until they were ready to purchase the building themselves.
“It’s been a partnership every step of the way,” said Andrea Poole, an IFF school services consultant. “[Foundations] started as a tenant, then purchased the building, and now they are in their next phase.”
The next phase for Foundations is a second facility, which will help enable the school to accommodate its first class of high school seniors. Construction is expected to be complete in time for the Fall 2019 school year.
“There’s no way we would be here without IFF,” O’Neil said. “They’ve been such a key partner with us on so many stages.”
IFF has provided five loans to Foundations since 2014.