Animas High School has secured the funding to build a new school on the campus of Fort Lewis College thanks to a $1.8 million donation from a local family.
The charter school will receive $2.5 million from a new bond issuance approved by voters in November. In addition, the school has received a $100,000 donation from the Colorado Charter School Institute.
But it was still short the $1.8 million donated by the family, which wished to remain anonymous, to meet the local match required to secure a $13.7 million Building Excellent Schools Today grant from the state Department of Education.
The $1.8 million donation will be administered through the Community Foundation Serving Southwest Colorado.
“The nice part is it gives us the ability to secure the building. My charge now is to make sure that we can fundraise for anything that pops up,” said AHS Head of School Sean Woytek.
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, discussions among educators across the country have focused on the need for upgrades to ventilation systems in schools, he said. In addition, prices for construction material, such as copper, steel and lumber, are all experiencing price spikes.
Fundraising will continue with a goal of raising $2.5 million to be able to open the new school, which will be located on the FLC campus just south of the Bader and Snyder resident halls, debt free when it opens in October 2022.
Briggen Wrinkle, executive director of the Community Foundation Serving Southwest Colorado, said: “The Community Foundation is honored to complete the BEST grant’s required local matching funds with this $1.8 million donation, ensuring that Animas High School will remain a strong educational asset in our community. Our funder prioritizes education that creates opportunities for students to thrive. We anticipate this generous local grant will ignite broad community support for a successful completion of Animas High School’s capital campaign.”
Wrinkle said she was “awestruck” that a local family would provide the $1.8 million AHS needed to secure the state grant for a new building, and she hopes it leads to other gifts to the school.
“You know, that $1.8 million seemed like such a big hurdle, and now that they’ve cleared it, we’re really hoping that local families and local philanthropists will step up. Because this isn’t just one hurdle,” she said. “They’ll have to do the inside of the building. They’ll have other needs, and I believe the community wants to see the best possible building go up at FLC.”
AHS, a charter school with a curriculum built around project-based learning, also announced it will be working with Philanthropy Expert, a Denver-based firm that assists in nonprofit fundraising.
“One of the big reasons why we went with them, even though they’re on the Front Range, is they’ve done a lot of capital campaigns for charter schools,” Woytek said. “And it’s a small enough market, a kind of niche market – definitely different than fundraising for a church or something like the Community Concert Hall – that we think their experience will be helpful.”
AHS has hired Anderson Mason Dale Architects of Denver and RMBA Architects of Durango to design the building.
Woytek said a schematic design of the new building is expected to go to the general contractor for the building, Jaynes Corp. of Albuquerque, in the next week.
Once the schematic is delivered, AHS officials will work with the contractors to make adjustments to ensure the project is within budget.
“Everyone I’ve talked to who has ever built a building, says a schematic design is always over budget. And then it’s up to you to figure out how do you get it back on budget,” Woytek said.
AHS, which has about 200 students, anticipates construction on the 40,500-square-foot building will begin this August with completion set for September 2022.