Baptist College seeks to buy former school

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BENNINGTON — The Northeastern Baptist College has signed an agreement to purchase the former Catamount Elementary School to be the future home of the college.

In order to complete the purchase of the School Street property by the end of the year, the college is undertaking a massive fundraising campaign, attempting to raise $5 million by the end of the year to cover the purchase price and preparing the property, according to NEBC President Mark Ballard. This would represent the first phase of the college's Forming the Foundation of the Future Plan. In total, the college hopes to raise $30 million over the next seven years.

"Many of you have been praying with us that God would open a door for us to have more space to house students, classrooms, offices, etc.," said Ballard in an email address on Aug 1., just after signing the agreement. "The Father has heard our prayers and provided a space for us that will meet our campus needs for the next several years."

The Forming the Foundation for the Future has 12 milestones that the school hopes to meet in the next seven years: Complete construction on all current facilities; secure a downtown campus; identify and secure housing for married students; achieve financial stability; endow the work study program; develop a hybrid distance education program; achieve regional accreditation with NEASC; expand their department chairs, faculty, and staff; expand their bachelor's level offerings, launch a master of arts program; launch an academic journal; and grow to 500 students.

"Reaching these milestones is a God-sized task," said Ballard, "The path is steep."

Ballard said that the even current owner of the property has pledged a large donation, saying, "God wants this deal to happen."

The current main campus of the college is located on the campus of Grace Christian School on Kocher Drive in Bennington. The college's library is located on Main Street, near the Paradise Inn.

The Bennington School District closed Catamount Elementary School in 2007, and sold it to Jack Appelman. In 2011, Appelman sold the property for $325,000 to Bo Vuckovic, a former Major League Soccer player and current owner and general manager of the Vermont Voltage minor league soccer team. Since 2012, it has housed Vuckovic's Bennington Sports and Wellness Center.

"For NEBC to continue to grow and expand God's work throughout the Northeast, we need the Father to meet these needs," said Ballard. "The great news is that He has already promised to meet our every need. The question now is how He wants to use you in this process."

Reach staff writer Derek Carson at 802-447-7567, ext. 122 or @DerekCarsonBB

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