iLearn Academy was solution to GHURA’s quandary

iLearn Academy focuses on STEM education for kindergarten through the 8th grade.

Recently, the Guam Housing and Urban Renewal Authority had to find a way to use federal funds or lose them.

They were able to use the funds and help one of Guam’s charter schools.

GHURA extended a $12 million loan to The Learning Institute to fund a portion of the iLearn Academy Charter School’s permanent campus.

iLearn Academy focuses on STEM education for kindergarten through the 8th grade.

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Although GHURA director Ray Topasna says GHURA is elated to help the school, GHURA and the Learning Institute iLearn Academy were brought together by a quandary.

In 2015, federal funds had been approved for a strip mall but according to Topasna, the project fell through.

The agency then had to find a shovel-ready project to use the funds…or lose them.

“It was incumbent upon the new administration to salvage the $12 million loan guarantee. So again I reached out to the governor’s office, to the cabinet, to try and identify a shovel-ready project that meets all the HUD guidelines. And we looked at a few and we could not determine whether they met the guidelines and then when we reviewed the Learning Institute did meet HUD guidelines, and they financially were able to pay back the loan,” Topasna said.

The iLearn Academy is currently located on a temporary campus in Dededo. Once the project is complete, it’ll be able to accommodate 900 students.

The funding comes from the Section 108 program, which, although a loan guarantee program, falls under the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant program.

Topasna says GHURA was especially keen to make sure it doesn’t lose this federal funding source because previously it hadn’t been available to Guam.

And if all goes well, Guam would be the first jurisdiction in the region to use it.

“This is a program that was not made available to the insular Guam in particular. And the Congresswoman, or the former Congresswoman, Madeleine Bordallo, had introduced legislation in Congress to allow the insular areas to include Guam to apply for compete for these funds..and GHURA did that. GHURA would be the first insular area to pull this off. Hawaii actually hasn’t been successful in obtaining or securing a loan guarantee through this program. So we’re actually ahead of them. That’s my understanding,” Topasna said.

Work is expected to begin in January and to be completed in 18 months — in time for the 2022 school year.