LAND O'LAKES — A private Pasco County school took out a $3.4 million construction loan four years ago, and now Bank of America wants repayment in full.
The bank has filed a foreclosure suit against Academy at the Lakes, demanding the school repay the loan plus interest because it failed to make its November 2010 monthly payment and did not meet added deadlines to cover the amount.
The school's contracts with Bank of America state that the bank may accelerate the terms of the loan if the school defaults.
Head of school Mark Heller said he did not want to discuss the "long story" of the school's failure to make its November payment on the loan, which was used to add classrooms and a gymnasium, and to make infrastructure improvements.
He said the school on Collier Parkway has been conducting confidential negotiations with the Bank of America to restructure its long-term debt.
"I don't want to jeopardize the active and positive direction that things are going," Heller said. "The school is actually in great shape."
He said the expansion allowed Academy at the Lakes to increase its enrollment. The school, which charges tuition starting at $11,000 for kindergarten, will have more than 410 students in the fall — the highest in its 19-year history, he said.
"We are absolutely thriving," Heller said. "This is like refinancing your mortgage."
According to documents filed in circuit court, Bank of America paid $170,000 on the school's letter of credit when it was drawn upon to cover a missed November 2010 loan payment of $26,509.
On Nov. 9, the bank's lawyer, Scott Newman of Holland & Knight, sent Academy at the Lakes a letter requesting repayment of the $170,000 plus interest, along with the monthly loan amount. It gave the school 10 days from the date it got the letter.
Three weeks later, Newman sent a second letter stating that the school had "failed to cure the monetary defaults" listed in the first letter. In keeping with the school's contract with the bank, he wrote, the bank "hereby exercises its right to accelerate the loan and declare all amounts outstanding … and immediately due and payable in full."
He added that if the payments were not made by Dec. 10, 2010, the bank reserved the right to take further action against the Academy.
It filed its foreclosure suit on March 28.
Newman could not be reached for additional comment.
Heller said the school would continue to negotiate with the bank. He remained confident that the situation will work out to the school's benefit.
"This whole thing could be dropped tomorrow," he said. "We are not in jeopardy."
Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at www.tampabay.com/blogs/gradebook.