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Canyon-Agassi group buys 4.6-acre plot for academy

That was quick.

When Andre Agassi announced this week his financing of buildings for three charter schools in Southern Nevada, he described the projects as the potential “start of a pipeline” of new, local charters.

Well, there’s already another deal to announce.

The Canyon-Agassi Charter School Facilities Fund, a nationwide effort to move charters from temporary classrooms into permanent space, has purchased a 4.6 acres at Stephanie Road and the 215 Beltway. The empty parcel will eventually house the Somerset Academy of Las Vegas, which will relocate from its campus inside Paradise Church at 2525 Emerson Ave., near Eastern Avenue and Desert Inn Road.

It will be the Canyon-Agassi fund’s first investment in Henderson.

The fund bought the land through an entity called C A Las Vegas Stephanie Road LLC. Florida-based investor WG Stephanie LLC was the seller. The closing price was $1.5 million, or $300,000 an acre.

Brian Gordon, a principal in local research firm Applied Analysis, said that price is in line with market land averages.

“We’ve seen a number of user-specific buildings move forward, preceded by land acquisitions,” Gordon said. “When a building is programmed for a specific use, that generally allows businesses to move forward with those acquisitions at price points that make financial sense for them.”

And it makes sense to build charter schools in Southern Nevada these days, said Ryan Reeves, director of operations for educational management company Academica Nevada, which helps charter schools, including Somerset, apply to open and find staffers, funding and real estate.

Thanks to several 2013 changes in state law, Nevada now ranks No. 13 in the nation for its charter-school climate, according to a report from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. The Silver State ranked No. 22 before the changes.

The new laws include one that gives charters access to state-bond funding, which carries lower interest charges than the conventional bank loans many charters use to build campuses.

There was also fresh legislation that built performance frameworks into charter contracts and strengthened the charter application and renewal processes.

“The climate has definitely improved. Support for charter schools goes across party lines and pretty much all segments of society,” Reeves said. “Everyone is in favor of choice in education, and of knowing that where your child goes to school is not determined by the ZIP code you live in but by the choice parents make. Even the (Clark County School District) is opening more magnet schools and making additional zone variances. It’s more fair to students, and it gives everyone a chance to succeed.”

The new regulations have allowed Canyon-Agassi and Academica Nevada to buy land or buildings for three other charter schools, including two southwest Las Vegas campuses for Doral Academy, and another Somerset campus near Losee and Lone Mountain roads in the northwest.

Reeves said Somerset will break ground “any day” on the Stephanie-215 property, which will house a 55,000-square-foot campus of up to 900 students in grades K-8 when it opens in August. Somerset will lease the building from Canyon-Agassi, but if all goes according to plan, the school will be able to buy back the building in three to five years.

Somerset’s Emerson campus serves 520 students and has a waiting list for next school year of 400 to 500 students, Reeves said. The school, whose mission is to advance all of its students by 1.1 grades a year, rather than just one grade a year, has a college-preparatory focus, and includes Spanish-language instruction in all grade levels.

Somerset chose the parcel because it’s near more than half of the families it serves, Reeves said. When Somerset came to town two years ago, it initially planned to build on land near Gibson Road and Horizon Ridge Parkway. That deal fell through, but not until after families who lived nearby began enrolling their children.

“We’re trying to get closer to where the parents are coming from,” Reeves said.

Canyon-Agassi’s involvement is a bit of a departure for the fund as well.

Agassi told the Review-Journal in an interview last week that while most of the fund’s charter schools are in inner cities, the outskirts need some attention as well.

“There’s so much overcrowding in the suburbs. Everybody deserves a good education, and when you’ve got 40-plus students per teacher, it’s not ideal,” Agassi said.

The Canyon-Agassi fund is working with charter schools in the top 15 percent of performers, Agassi said.

“A lot of charter schools do not have high-performing results, because many of them are started as mom-and-pop shops by people who are frustrated with their options. They kind of get in over their head,” he said.

Agassi said the fund could help anywhere from six to 30 local charters find permanent buildings in the next few years.

Contact reporter Jennifer Robison at jrobison@reviewjournal.com. Follow @J_Robison1 on Twitter.

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