Lake Dillon Theatre Co. seeks funding for dual-language, after-school program

The Silverthorne Performing Arts Center, home of the Lake Dillon Theatre Co., is pictured Aug. 6, 2021. The organization is seeking funding for its dual-language program.
Tripp Fay/For the Summit Daily News

The Lake Dillon Theatre Co. approached the Dillon Town Council Tuesday, July 19, requesting sustained financial support for its free dual-language, after-school program. The theater plans on expanding its programs to Dillon Valley and Summit Cove in the fall.

Lake Dillon Theatre Co. Artistic Director Christopher Alleman asked the town for $50,000 to support its programming. Through community donors like the town of Dillon and state and federal grants, Alleman said the program hopes to secure sustainable, long-term funding. The program is looking at a yearly budget of $440,000 a year, he said.

The theater will ask the same $50,000 donation from the county, town of Silverthorne and The Summit Foundation, bringing its local ask up to $200,000. For the remainder, the theater will look to other partners and state and federal grants.

It plans to put three dual-language teaching artists at both Dillon Valley Elementary and Silverthorne Elementary, and two at Summit Cove Elementary. In total, Alleman said he expects the program to host 120 to 130 students per day across all three schools. That’s more than what the Keystone Science School could handle, he said.

“The past 18 months we’ve been working on this program,” he said. “It’s impetus came during the COVID-19 pandemic, when we realized that a lot of our working class families were really needing some outlets for their youth. … What we realized is that a lot of our marginalized community was being left out of the conversation.”

Alleman said the Keystone Science School used to manage after-school programs in Frisco, Silverthorne, Dillon Valley and Summit Cove.

“The Keystone Science School was really one of the only organizations in the county doing anything on the north end,” he said.

But the nonprofit, like many organizations, faced staffing issues. Alleman said the school struggled to find staff to work from the hours of 3-5 p.m.

In the end, Alleman said the science school withdrew some of its offerings, particularly in Silverthorne, and in response the county approached the Lake Dillon Theatre Co. He said the county asked if it and the science school could solve the lack of after school programs on the north end of the county.

“They asked us to put together a program particularly with us two to do dual-language schools: Dillon Valley and Silverthorne,” he said. “And so we did.”

Expanding a prior program, the theater created its dual-language 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, dual-language theater production.

All that was left was to secure funding. Alleman said the county wanted to offer up enough money to get the program off the ground, but the asking price was too much. The theater then reached out to stakeholders and fundraised $450,000 at the end of the 2021 summer, he said.

The theater hired two dual-language teachers and prepped for its first pilot program in the spring of 2022, he said. But just as the program got underway and reached its 20 student capacity, Keystone Science School had to cancel its after-school programs countywide. The theater attempted to take in the students who need a new place to go, but found their resources taxed.

“We were servicing about 65 families a week, and we were capped at about 45 kids a day,” Alleman said. The school flew in a third dual-language teacher to keep student-teacher ratios low through the spring.

The program is completely free for students and families, including transportation. It also doesn’t 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’s already considering putting some of that toward a child care assistance program.

“I commend you for taking this on and trying to take a whack at it, and I believe that we have funding we can put to it,” Dillon Mayor Carolyn Skowyra said.

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