Animas High School presented more options to pair a second building with a proposed high school on the campus of Fort Lewis College, including either housing Big Picture High, the 9-R therapeutic day school or Durango Devo youth cycling – or a combination of the programs.
AHS Head of School Sean Woytek presented the new options Tuesday to the 9-R Board of Education, as the charter school examines ways to narrow the $1.9 million it seeks to raise by the end of May to build the new school.
The $1.9 million is needed to complete the local match AHS needs to accept a $13.7 million BEST grant from the state to pay for a new school building at FLC.
The state’s Capital Construction Assistance Board, which must approve building proposals for schools that have been awarded Building Excellent Schools Today grants, has already shot down one proposal that envisioned AHS and Big Picture sharing sections of a building.
But Woytek said the proposal was shot down largely because it envisioned altering the footprint of the school plan originally accepted for BEST funding.
Woytek said building a second structure next to AHS to house Big Picture or the other programs should be received more favorably by the Capital Construction Assistance Board if it doesn’t alter the footprint of the originally envisioned AHS building.
In addition, adding the second building should come with funding to bring AHS closer to raising the $1.9 million it needs to secure the BEST grant to finance construction.
Financial details, including how the new proposals might narrow the $1.9 million AHS needs to raise, and other aspects of a shared campus, like how facilities might be shared, remain to be worked out.
9-R board members said they wanted to hear more about such details before either agreeing or rejecting any of the proposals presented Tuesday night.
“I’m still trying to wrap my head around all these proposals,” board member Erika Brown said, and she suggested the Capital Construction Assistance Board might still reject the proposals.
Board member Mick Souder asked Woytek and 9-R administrators to come back with “pencil to paper” proposals that provided more details, including financial details.
Woytek said AHS must raise the money for the local match by the end of May to receive the BEST grant.
If all else fails, AHS is working with local banks, Woytek said, to get a commercial loan for the remaining $1.9 million, but that would be the most expensive route for AHS to take.
Jeff King, president of the AHS board of directors, said the school would go forward with a commercial loan to finalize the local match by the end of May if no collaborative arrangement could be worked out with 9-R.
Later this month or early in February, Durango School District 9-R is scheduled to issue at least $90 million in bonds largely to upgrade security and safety and to repair a backlog of maintenance needs at 9-R schools.
From the new bonds, Durango’s three charter schools, AHS, Mountain Middle School and The Juniper School, are set to each receive $2.5 million, and AHS intends to use its $2.5 million to partially meet the $4.4 million local match needed to secure the $13.7 million BEST grant.
AHS continues to pursue finding the remaining portion of the local match through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Community Facilities Direct Loan and Grant Program, an effort that began in August 2019.
But Woytek said the Community Facilities Direct Loan and Grant Program is unlikely to be approved by May.
In addition, he said a new capital campaign to raise money for the local match is unlikely to be productive until after May, too late to help with the local BEST grant match.