Officials from the Aspen Community School are kicking off a nearly $5 million fundraising campaign this week, aiming to collect required matching funds for a state grant awarded for their long-sought campus overhaul.
“We’re trying to kick it into high-gear fundraising mode for our match,” said Skye Skinner, executive director for the school.
The 42-year-old Woody Creek school’s campus plans call for more than $9 million in renovation and construction.
After three years of unsuccessful bids for Colorado’s competitive Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) grant to help fund the project, the Community School won a $4.2 million grant last month, with a required $4.9 million in matching funds due in May. That was after a protracted appeal over the amount of matching funds the school would owe the state.
The charter school’s campaign to raise that amount officially launches Wednesday, when school officials are expected to announce an initial donation and fundraising plans. They’ve branded it the “I Believe” campaign.
Supporters on hand Wednesday will include State Sen. Gail Schwartz and Jim Griffin, president of the Colorado League of Charter Schools. Both were strong advocates for the Community School to win the BEST grant and, along with Aspen School District Superintendent John Maloy and others, gave presentations to the state board advocating for the Community School’s dire facility needs.
The Community School typically raises something in the neighborhood of $125,000 in funds per year, so raising 40 times that amount in less than a year is no small task.
The school’s funding sources typically includes individual donations from parents and alumni, along with grants from sources like the Aspen Thrift Store, Aspen Community Foundation and the Aspen Education Foundation. For the new campaign, they’ll likely be relying mostly on individual contributions.
“We do have a deep history with the community and charitable donations in this community,” Skinner said.
In the years that the school was denied a BEST grant, many believed it was not because the physical needs at the school were undeserving, but because state officials concluded a wealthy resort area like Aspen didn’t need public dollars and could amply fundraise.
This year, the Community School’s boosters convinced the BEST board that it wasn’t that easy to raise millions of dollars in Aspen, and won their key grant. But now they’ve still got to raise several millions of dollars in Aspen.