The Aspen Community School received an anonymous $750,000 donation last week, bringing its fundraising campaign within $1 million of reaching its goal.
In September, the Woody Creek charter school started its “I Believe” fundraising campaign, and more recently launched an online effort dubbed “Bringing Home the BEST,” to match a $4.2 million grant the school received from the state last year. The school has until May 1 to raise the $4.9 million or it will forfeit the state funds.
“To paraphrase Dr. Seuss, we need every Who in Whoville to stand up and be counted for outstanding public education by May 1,” Skye Skinner, director of the nonprofit Compass, which operates the Community School, said in a press release. “Every donation, no matter how small or large, counts.”
The state grant combined with the donations will fund an $11.6 million school renovation and expansion. Upgrades include increasing the amount of classroom space by 25 percent, improving handicap accessibility and building on-campus housing for teachers.
The school has 15 more days to raise $1 million, otherwise administrators will go back to the drawing board, said campaign spokesperson Lara Whitley. So far, the campaign has been a grassroots effort targeting locals and alumni. Recently, however, the school launched Bringing Home the Best using the website IndieGoGo to draw even relatively small donations from people outside the community. The minimum amount a person can donate online starts at $10, but people can donate as much as they want at igg.me/at/BEST through April 26. All donations are tax deductible.
It’s remarkable that the school has raised as much as it has in a relatively short period of time, Skinner said. At this rate, reaching the goal seems possible, she said.
In March, the school partnered with The Little Nell and Aspen Skiing Co. to offer a two-week online art auction to raise funds for the campaign. The auction included more than 90 pieces, including work from renowned artists like Ferenc Berko, Andrew Roberts-Gray, Karl Hollinger and Tom Benton. Roughly one-fifth of the items in the auction were donated by The Little Nell from its extensive collection, which is curated by Aspen gallery owner David Floria. That same month, the campaign also received a $1 million donation from the Walton Family Foundation, which was founded by Walmart billionaires Sam and Helen Walton.
After 40 years of intensive use and growing enrollment, the Aspen Community School is one of the highest performing public schools with the poorest facilities, according to the campaign’s website. In 2012, its 127 students’ reading scores were 24 percent higher and math scores were 28 percent higher than the state average. The campus, meanwhile, is ranked near the bottom 1 percent of educational facilities in the state — ranking 24th to last out of 1,689 public schools in Colorado in 2012.