Last year, Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Pat Murphy set June 30, 2011 as the date by which planetarium supporters had to raise $402,800 to pay for necessary upgrades to the 40-year-old facility. If the deadline was not met, the school system would close the planetarium and use it as classroom space — as Dr. Murphy originally proposed before supporters successfully lobbied the School Board to find a way to save the planetarium.
A non-profit entity called the Friends of Arlington’s Planetarium was formed to raise the money for the upgrades. As of last night, they had collected some $371,000 in donations. ‘Friends’ President Alice Monet says she expects donors big and small to come through over the next day and a half.
“The community really wants to see this planetarium stick around,” she said. “We anticipate donations continuing to flow in… At the end of the day we will have full amount in hand.”
Monet admitted, however, that it’s unlikely the school system would shutter the planetarium at this point, even if the group misses its fundraising goal.
“Honestly, the point has been made already that Arlington supports the planetarium,” she said. “If we don’t make it, we’ll keep working until we do.”
Once the capital campaign is complete, Monet said, the Friends organization will shift from a fundraising role to an advisory role regarding the planetarium’s upgrades and on-going operations.