Catherine Hinson leads a fifth- and sixth-grade class Wednesday at Heritage Christian School. The campus will remain kindergarten through 12th grade next school year after a successful fundraising effort to close a large budget shortfall.

Photo by Scott Franz

Catherine Hinson leads a fifth- and sixth-grade class Wednesday at Heritage Christian School. The campus will remain kindergarten through 12th grade next school year after a successful fundraising effort to close a large budget shortfall.

Heritage Christian School to stay K-12 after successful fundraising effort

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— Dave Entwistle isn't a public speaker.

But he can't wait to tell the story again.

And again.

And again.

At area churches and in his classrooms, Heritage Christian School's administrator starts the story with the daunting $260,000 shortfall the school was facing in April.

Even Entwistle, who always has been optimistic about his school's future and success, questioned how the campus would raise that much money in such little time to ensure it could continue its secondary school classes next school year.

“I've seen God show up in my own life with things that have happened, and I know he's certainly able,” Entwistle said. “But I've got to admit, my own faith was not where it needed to be when I was thinking how is this going to happen over the next month and a half.”

But then some good news arrived.

Enrollment in the elementary classes grew to a point where the school is expecting to have more kids than it did this school year.

Checks and donations from community members came in.

Some budget cuts were made to further the deficit.

And about 45 parents, students and family members associated with the school took Peabody Energy up on an offer to earn $250 per mile of highway they helped clean on Routt County's Community Cleanup Day.

“All these things were exciting to see,” Entwistle said.

He said the deficit stood at $78,000 two weeks ago.

Then it shrank to about $20,000 last week.

On Thursday, some last-minute donations covered that in one day.

Entwistle said Wednesday that the weeks of fundraising and the projected enrollment growth closed the gap, and will allow the school to stay K-12 next year.

The campus is excited, but it also realizes it needs to continue working toward a more sustainable financial model.

Entwistle said most of that will come from focusing on attracting more families to the school. In addition to that, the school has frozen its teachers' salaries and made changes to its health insurance plan.

And Entwistle plans to teach a class.

“We don't have any cushion whatsoever,” he said.

The campus' financial challenge spurred an outpouring of community support.

Six local churches pooled together their offerings and raised $7,000 for the campus.

Some parents pledged to offer new scholarships.

And Guido and Naoko Costantini, who have no connection to the school other than their faith, donated $2,500.

“It took me a whole two seconds to decide to donate,” Guido Costantini said Wednesday.

Costantini learned about the school's financial situation at a dinner with one of Heritage Christian's teachers.

“I thought it was thriving and well-funded,” he said. “I was not aware it had any problems.”

Costantini, whose two daughters attend the Steamboat Springs School District, said he and his wife were motivated to give to ensure students here had more than one type of school from which to choose.

Entwistle said he's planning to share the news of the school's improved financial picture with parishioners at Steamboat Christian Center on Saturday and Sunday. He's also hoping to speak at Holy Name Catholic Church, among other places.

“It's a story of faith,” he said. “I'm certainly hopeful we won't be in the same boat next year.”

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com

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