Ross Montessori now weighing other funding options for school site
CARBONDALE — It’s on to “plan B” for the Ross Montessori School, after the positive results of recent bond elections elsewhere in Colorado meant Ross fell off the list for a state building construction grant for a third straight year.
The Carbondale-based state charter school was awaiting the outcome of the Nov. 5 election to find out if it would move up the list for an $11.8 million Colorado Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) grant.
Several school districts had bond issues and tax questions on the ballot to come up with matching funds necessary to receive their BEST grants.
All of them passed, meaning Ross, which had raised its $1 million match but was still awaiting approvals to secure a new building site, remained on the backup list.
“We were disappointed,” said Mark Kavasch, vice president of the Ross Montessori board.
That, coupled with failure of Amendment 66 statewide, which would have meant another $200,000, approximately, for the 250-student charter school, was a double-whammy, he said.
Amendment 66 was the proposal to increase the state income tax as a way to increase state equalization funding for school districts and charter schools across the state. It was shot down, with more than 64 percent of Colorado voters rejecting it.
As far as the loss of the BEST grant, “We always had a plan B, and we will follow through with that,” Kavasch said.
That will involve keeping the planned new 2.75-acre school site at the Thompson Park subdivision in Carbondale under contract, and submitting an application for a United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development loan.
Ross Montessori recently earned approval from the Carbondale Board of Trustees to convert a portion of the already approved residential development along Highway 133 for a new 38,500-square-foot, 14-classroom school building that could serve up to 350 students in grades preschool through eighth.
That plan may have to be altered, Kavasch said, depending on the success of obtaining the loan and/or going after other grant options. The BEST program also still remains a long-term possibility, he said.
“We may have to live within our means a little more, and fit the size of the school to what we think we can afford,” he said.
Ross Montessori operates under the Colorado Charter School Institute in a leased modular facility at Fourth Street and Merrill Avenue in Carbondale. Due to growth pressures, the school has been seeking another place to operate and expand.
The school had previously planned to buy and build on the Aspen Equestrian Estates property east of Carbondale, but failed to win the necessary zoning change from Garfield County.
School officials later reached a deal with Thompson Park developer Frieda Wallison to buy the parcel nearest to Highway 133 that had been approved for 18 townhomes or condos as part of the larger 45-home neighborhood that includes the historic Thompson House.
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