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Aspen Community School groundbreaking

Aspen Community School groundbreaking

A day of celebration for Aspen Community School

Students at the Aspen Community School on Tuesday broke ground for a new main building and a gym, an important milestone in the charter’s 10-year quest to replace a four-decade-old log building on a mesa near Woody Creek.

The school has been something of a case study for the difficulties some charters have had in gaining funds from the Building Excellent Schools Today construction grant program.

The school finally won $4.2 million in state funds two years ago after several unsuccessful bids, but supporters had to raise nearly $5 million to provide the required match. (In 2012 the BEST board recommended a $7.3 million match but changed its mind after some gentle nudging from the State Board of Education.)

The $4.9 million raised from more than 650 contributors is the largest BEST match raised without a bond issue or debt financing. More than 420 gifts were $250 or smaller.

Construction of the main building and the gym will begin this summer and take up most of the 2014-15 school year.

Aspen Community is trying to raise an additional $4 million to build a music and arts building plus other facilities that aren’t eligible for state funding. That second phase envisions saving parts of the old log building and its tower as part of an outdoor amphitheater.

A building inventory done after the BEST program was created in 2008 placed the log structure in the bottom 1 percent of all state school buildings, based on condition.

The school has about 130 students and is chartered by the Aspen district.