The Lake Dillon Theater Co. approached Dillon City Council on Tuesday, July 19, requesting continued financial support for its free bilingual after-school program. The theater plans to expand its programs to Dillon Valley and Summit Cove in the fall.
Lake Dillon Theater Co. artistic director Christopher Alleman has asked the city for $50,000 to support its programming. Through community donors like the City of Dillon and state and federal grants, Alleman said the program hopes to secure long-term, sustainable funding. The program is considering an annual budget of $440,000 per year, he said.
The theater will seek the same $50,000 donation from the county, the town of Silverthorne and the Summit Foundation, bringing its local request to $200,000. For the rest, the theater will turn to other partners and state and federal grants.
He plans to assign three bilingual teaching artists to both Dillon Valley Elementary and Silverthorne Elementary, and two to Summit Cove Elementary. In total, Alleman said he expects the program to serve 120 to 130 students per day at the three schools. That’s more than Keystone Science School could handle, he said.
“For the past 18 months we have been working on this program,” he said. “That was the impetus that came during the COVID-19 pandemic, when we realized that many of our working class families really needed opportunities for their youth. … What we realized was that a large part of our marginalized community was left out of the conversation.
Alleman said Keystone Science School previously operated after-school programs in Frisco, Silverthorne, Dillon Valley and Summit Cove.
“Keystone Science School was really one of the only organizations in the county doing anything up north,” he said.
But the nonprofit, like many organizations, has faced staffing challenges. Alleman said the school was struggling to find staff to work from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Ultimately, Alleman said the science school withdrew some of its offers, particularly Silverthorne, and in response, the county approached the Lake Dillon Theater Co. He said the county asked if she and science school could solve the lack of extracurricular programs. at the north end of the county.
“They asked us to set up a particular program with the two of us to do bilingual schools: Dillon Valley and Silverthorne,” he said. “And we did.”
Expanding on an earlier program, the theater created its Bilingual Theater Program. The program had three components, he said: an after-school program, an arts integration program where the theater worked with local schools to use art as a teaching tool, and an in-house theater production in two languages. .
All that remained was to find funding. Alleman said the county wanted to offer enough money to start the program, but the asking price was too high. The theater then reached out to stakeholders and raised $450,000 by late summer 2021, he said.
The theater has hired two bilingual teachers and prepared its first pilot program in the spring of 2022, he said. But just as the program began and reached its capacity of 20 students, Keystone Science School had to cancel its after-school programs across the county. The theater attempted to accommodate students who needed a new place to go, but its resources were taxed.
“We were serving about 65 families a week and we were limited to about 45 children a day,” Alleman said. The school flew in a third bilingual teacher to keep the student-teacher ratio low throughout the spring.
The program is completely free for students and families, including transportation. It also does not require students to fill out forms for the school district’s free and reduced lunch program.
The town of Dillon may consider using part of its nicotine tax to fund the program, although it is already considering putting some of it towards a childcare assistance program.
“I commend you for taking on this task and trying to tackle it, and I think we have funds that we can put into it,” Dillon Mayor Carolyn Skowyra said.