Arlington County’s David M. Brown Planetarium has been saved through more than $435,000 in donations, surpassing the goal to raise $402,800 by June 30 set by Arlington school officials last year to keep the facility from closing.
More than 200 people donated $25,000 in the last 10 days of the Friends of the Arlington’s David M. Brown Planetarium campaign. One anonymous foundation donated $50,000 to push the charitable group over the top.
About 3,500 people contributed to the year-long campaign.
Alice Monet, a former astronomer and president of the Friends of Arlington’s David M. Brown Planetarium group, said she was “overwhelmed by the show of community” and their determination to provide a great education for the children.
“It is true we have had a few major donors. That would not have won the case,” said Monet, who noted that Superintendent Patrick Murphy wanted to see community support for the science facility.
“All of the kids who showed up to our events, and parents who donated, the thousands of people who responded, that is what made this a winning effort,” she said. “Every single donation counted. We really needed all of those people to help.”
Superintendent Patrick Murphy originally planned to reuse the planetarium space for classrooms during the 2010 school budget process, but the community protested. He challenged them to come up with $402,800 over the next year to cover the cost of a new star projector, replacement seating, updated lighting and a new dome for the science facility.
Murphy’s estimate was based on a study done two years ago by George Mason University and the figures were not actual amounts, Monet said.
”We don’t actually know what this is going to cost,” she said. “And that study was done two years ago. I would guess the cost has gone up.”
The additional money will be held in a contingency fund and used to support the planetarium’s rehabilitation, Monet said.
Murphy included one part-time employee and $230,000 in construction funding for the facility on Quincy Road in the 2011-2012 school budget.
The Friends will continue to work with the Arlington public school system and support the planetarium in the future, Monet said.