District will help Aspen Community School shoot for $4.6M state grant | AspenTimes.com

District will help Aspen Community School shoot for $4.6M state grant

Jeanne McGovern
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado

ASPEN – The Aspen Board of Education once again will contribute half of its land-dedication fees for the year to the Aspen Community School’s effort to secure a multimillion-dollar BEST (Building Excellent Schools Today) grant from the Colorado Department of Education.

“The Aspen School District has enjoyed its relationship with the Community School and is continuously discussing ways to support the school and assist the teachers and staff in meeting the needs of the children they serve,” said Aspen Superintendent John Maloy, noting the district made the same commitment last year. “The district is committed in helping the Community School secure a BEST grant in order to improve its aging facilities and create a safer, more flexible learning environment.”

The Community School, which is the Aspen School District’s charter school for kindergarten through eighth grade, has been turned down for the grant the past two years.

The school is hoping to secure the grant money for a massive renovation of its 42-year-old campus in Woody Creek. It is asking the state to contribute $4.6 million toward the $13 million project.

“The (Board of Education) reviewed the upcoming district projects that these (land-dedication) fees may be used for and determined that this commitment to the Aspen Community School would not affect the district’s ability to complete these projects when they are ultimately undertaken,” said school board President Elizabeth Parker following Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting.

The school board decided at that meeting to commit 50 percent of the district’s land-dedication fees from this school year toward the Community School’s effort. To date, $288,000 has been collected, which could mean financial support in the $145,000 to $150,000 range for the charter school.

Community School officials hope this will help sway the state’s decision in their direction because they see no other way to make the necessary improvements.

“Truly, we have no alternative – the current facilities do a disservice to our students and our educational program, and the BEST grant is our most viable option for getting a vitally important capital project off the ground,” they wrote in a letter to the school board requesting financial support.

They also said they believe past grant requests may have been denied because of the “Aspen” name and that the school board’s support could go a long way in helping their cause.

Parker said this point did weigh into the board’s decision.

“The Colorado Department of Education and the BEST Committee have made it clear that a meaningful financial commitment from the home district is very important to the success of the application, particularly when the district is perceived as more affluent than competing applicant districts,” she said. “We wish (the Community School) luck in its third attempt at this grant and are excited about the changes that will occur if it is successful.”

The BEST application is due March 2. Applications will be evaluated in June.