The Fort Wayne Community Schools board approved an unprecedented request Monday – naming rights to a commercial entity.

The seven members cemented the $625,000 sponsorship with 3Rivers Federal Credit Union about two weeks before the launch of Amp Lab at Electric Works, the district’s immersive half-day program for juniors and seniors. In exchange, one of Amp Lab’s four educational studios will be named for the credit union for five years.

Steve Corona, a board member, stressed the significance of the announcement, saying the partnership illustrates Superintendent Mark Daniel’s promise to engage businesses.

“We know that it costs money to run Amp Lab,” Corona said. “And we need our business partners to do that.”

Daniel became superintendent about a month after the board in 2020 approved a 10-year lease of Building 31 at the former General Electric campus along Broadway south of downtown. The district agreed to rent 26,046 square feet at a base rent of $15 per square foot, which was to rise 2.25% per year.

FWCS also agreed to pay a tenant improvement budget to ensure the 1940s-era building was renovated to meet classroom needs. That cost was estimated at $7.01 per square foot.

Amp Lab is expected to open with 400 students, and officials have said it will have about 15 employees. The academic year begins Aug. 10.

“We have to figure out how to fund this one,” Daniel said after the meeting, explaining the program isn’t adding to FWCS’ enrollment, which would generate more tuition support dollars from the state.

Mitch Sheppard, the district’s philanthropy director, expects to secure sponsorships for the three other educational studios.

“We anticipate some good news soon,” she said.

As part of its agreement, the credit union will also provide financial literacy curriculum. Lessons will cover information for both personal and entrepreneurial needs, said James Cashman, who plans to visit Amp Lab regularly. He is 3Rivers’ youth and college manager.

Sheppard said that wasn’t part of FWCS’ original pitch.

“We most gratefully accepted, in that they’re actually paying us money to save us money on another product,” she said. “So it’s working out quite well.”

Melissa Shaw, the credit union’s vice president of marketing, said the partnership aligns with 3Rivers’ mission to help people understand money matters.

“We see this opportunity to provide financial education to so many young people as an innovative and exciting way to expand our commitment to the community,” Shaw said.

Daniel plans to stop by during the new school’s Aug. 2 open house. Hours are 1 to 3 p.m. and 5 to 7 p.m.

FWCS supported Electric Works by becoming a tenant, Daniel said, and the new business sponsorship validates the district’s programming. “It’s a community coming together to help support economic growth,” he said.

Reporter

Reporter Ashley Sloboda has covered education for The Journal Gazette since 2016. A Fort Wayne native, she has 15 years of experience at newspapers in Illinois, Wisconsin and Indiana.