Carbondale Montessori school wins $6.6M grant for land purchase | AspenTimes.com

Carbondale Montessori school wins $6.6M grant for land purchase

John Stroud
Post Independent
Aspen, CO Colorado

CARBONDALE – Ross Montessori School, a state public charter school based in Carbondale, has been awarded a $6.6 million grant to be used toward the purchase of land and eventual construction of a new school building.

In order to accept the grant, however, the school must raise another $5.2 million in matching funds by December.

“We are very excited to have been awarded this grant, but now have another major hurdle in trying to raise matching funds by the end of this year,” said Tami Cassetty, a co-founder of the school and vice president of the school’s board of directors.

The grant was made through the state of Colorado’s Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) grant program earlier this month. It was one of $135 million in lease purchase grants awarded to 11 public schools statewide out of 45 applications.

This was the second time that Ross Montessori has applied for the highly competitive grant, Cassetty said.

The BEST program was created by the Colorado Legislature in 2008 to provide extra financial assistance to public school districts and charter schools for capital construction projects.

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Ross was chartered in 2005 under the Colorado Charter School Institute. Since then, the school has been housed in a group of modular buildings at Fourth Street and Merrill Avenue in Carbondale.

The school opened this school year with more than 245 students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade, primarily from the Carbondale area but also drawing students within an area extending from Rifle to Snowmass.

One of the BEST project priorities is to eliminate the use of modular structures for student classroom facilities.

Cassetty said the school had asked the BEST board to consider reducing the match amount to $1 million, but that request was denied.

“Raising $5.2 million is a significant hurdle, and we are doing everything we can to find this money and not let $6.6 million slip through our hands,” Cassetty said. “Our students really need to be in a facility that can support our educational needs.”

Because Ross is chartered with the state, rather than a local school district, it cannot access property tax revenues.

So, the challenge is on to reach out to the school community, foundations and other sources to raise the extra money, Cassetty said.

Matching funds can come in form of monetary donations or a land grant, she said.

“We have more than $200,000 pledged so far, and over $300,000 in grant requests out there,” she said. “It would really be nice to find that angel, in the form of a land donation.”

RMS has been looking at various properties to purchase in the Carbondale area, but none of those of come to fruition, Cassetty said.

New RMS head of school Sonya Hemmen said the grant award acknowledges the school’s academic excellence.

“The Colorado Department of Education’s Performance Report shows that Ross meets or exceeds every academic criteria set forth for student achievement,” she said in a prepared statement. “We are especially proud that, with five prominent ethnic backgrounds represented at our school, we meet the needs of all students.

“Parents have known this for six years and we proudly open this year with our largest student population to date,” she said.

jstroud@postindependent.com

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