The Cannon Beach Academy, a proposed charter school that’s been in development for almost a year, is unlikely to open in September 2014 as its board originally planned.

And after a nearly two-month pledge drive, the academy is still about $80,000 short of reaching its $368,000 goal.

In February, the Seaside School Board rejected the academy’s charter proposal. From the school board’s standpoint, the academy seemed to be missing at least two important elements: funding and sustainable community support.

The charter school responded by launching a pledge drive in hopes of gathering enough donations to cover the school’s start-up and operating costs during its first three years.

These costs will include leasing land, renting portable classrooms and purchasing the curriculum and school supplies.

Setting themselves a May 1 deadline for receiving all pledges, academy volunteers mailed letters to more than 2,300 residents and property owners asking for financial support when the school finally opens.

Now that May 1 has come and gone, the academy’s board is extending the deadline to May 31.

So far, the academy has collected almost 110 pledges, adding up to about $289,000.

Three pledges are for more than $20,000, two fall between $10,000 and $20,000 and five are between $5,000 and $10,000. Most pledges are of $1,000 or less.

“We had a decent first cut ... I’m proud of these numbers,” said Phil Simmons, the academy’s board president. Still, “I had hoped for more — and we need more.”

When the pledge drive began, the academy aimed to bring in about $500,000.

Since then, board members have identified a recently reinstated $140,000 federal grant that the school may be eligible for, and that would reduce the amount of needed donations, said Barb Knop, the academy’s treasurer.

This week, the academy will do some “target mailing” to follow up with potential donors.

Meanwhile, the board has been revising the charter proposal and plans to resubmit it, along with a response to the district’s denial letter, on June 1 to the Seaside School Board, which has 20 days to respond.

If it eventually accepts the proposal, the school board will enter into charter contract negotiations with the academy. The school district would be required to sponsor the charter school with $532,000 per year — roughly $5,320 per student for the 100 or so students signed up to attend the academy.

If the school board denies the charter proposal a second time, the academy may submit it to the Oregon State Board of Education.

In either case, a September 2014 opening is probably no longer feasible.

“I don’t think it’s possible, honestly,” Simmons said. “Practically speaking, we’re setting our sights on September 2015.”

Securing a temporary location for the school has also proven difficult.

Right now, the academy has its eye on two possible sites: a privately owned parcel in Cannon Beach’s north end and a city-owned parcel in midtown.

Provided the charter school comes together, its founders would like to move it to the 58-acre South Wind property, east of U.S. Highway 101 above the tsunami zone, after spending a few years in the temporary location.

Based on the community support they’ve received, Simmons and Knop remain optimistic that the academy will be able to meet the budget shortfall.

“It’s a large number of folks — working-class people — who stepped forward and made pledges. That speaks volumes,” Simmons said. His enthusiasm is “buoyed by the folks who have little to give but do ... That tells me we still have a legitimate chance of making this happen.”

He added that the high number of low-income Hispanic families who still managed to make pledges “warmed my heart.”

“We still believe very strongly that this community needs an elementary school, and we’re not going away,” Knop said.


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