Animas High School officials should know by May 17 whether they will get a $21 million BEST grant for a new school.
The application is complicated by a local match AHS must raise if it is awarded the Building Excellent Schools Today grant for the 2019-20 grant cycle.
The local match means the school must come up with just under $5.5 million to receive $15.56 million from the Colorado Department of Education.
AHS Head of School Sean Woytek said the school has asked for waiver of the local match but won’t know whether the waiver is accepted until May 17.
Currently, the school occupies two temporary buildings in Twin Buttes that provide about 30,000 square feet. But the buildings are aging and at a point when they will need major maintenance for continued use.
The temporary buildings also are not compatible with the school’s project-based curriculum, which requires flexible space for small and large groups and specialty labs for art, science and vocational skills.
The school plans to build a permanent facility in Twin Buttes that would increase space to 50,000 square feet and include modern labs and flexible meeting spaces designed for a project-based curriculum.
Woytek said AHS is looking at three options regarding its BEST grant application:
The state awards AHS a BEST grant and accepts a waiver of the local match, in which case the school must raise $1 million to get the grant instead of the $5.5 million local match.The state awards AHS a BEST grant but denies a waiver of the local match. If this is the case, Woytek said school must decide if it can come up with $5.5 million local match through private fundraising or decline the grant and apply for it again for the next funding cycle for the 2020-21 school year.The state denies the entire application for a BEST grant, which would force the school to reapply for the BEST grant in 2020-21.“If we get the waiver, I feel pretty confident we can come up with $1 million on our own,” Woytek said.
Durango School District 9-R Board of Education also is considering seeking a $70 million to $80 million bond issuance in November 2019 or November 2020.
According to Woytek, the bonds could provide access to another revenue stream AHS could tap for a local match for the BEST grant.
If 9-R seeks a bond issuance and it is granted by voters in November, Woytek said AHS possibly could use some of the funds raised in the bond issuance to help meet the local match.
Delaying the bond issuance election until November 2020 would mean AHS would not gain help from the bond revenue this year, but it could gain access to bond revenue for a 2020-21 BEST grant.
Woytek cautions that “nothing is set in stone” about 9-R, including AHS’s needs in a new bond issuance request – whether it asks voters for the bonds this year or next.
However, a mill levy override vote in 2016 that provided additional funding for all Durango public schools, including charter schools, gives Woytek hope AHS’s needs for revenue to finance a permanent home would be included when 9-R puts a bond issuance before the voters.
“Our collaboration on the mill levy election shows this community wants to support all students,” he said.
Woytek added that AHS’s need for a local match for a BEST grant shouldn’t determine when 9-R asks voters for new bonds.
“The main concern has to be: How do we get this passed,” he said of the timing of a bond election. “9-R has security upgrades and maintenance needs, and we’re looking to help 5,000 students, not just my 250 students.”