Pagosa Peak Open School Prepares to Open Its Doors, Part One

On Saturday morning, August 19, two Pagosa business owners were working together, spreading well-aged wood mulch across a new 4,800-square-foot playing field behind the Parelli Headquarters in Aspen Village.

Paul Hansen, owner of The Mulch Factory — located out Highway 84 at the site of the former Wolf Creek Industries sawmill — was delivering his second dump truck load of dark brown mulch.

Skid steer operator Stephen Tholberg had been working at the site, off and on for a couple of weeks, creating a flat playing surface for the 75 children who will begin attending Pagosa’s first charter elementary school on September 5. Approximately $15,000 worth of dirt had been donated to the school by Crossfire LLC — the folks who are currently constructing a new community multi-use trail that runs past the school — and various other donations of time and materials are helping to convert a sloping, weed-covered hillside into a grassy playing field.

From left, Paul Hansen and Stephen Tholberg prepare to spread aged wood mulch across Pagosa Peak Open School’s new playing field. The surface to slated to receive a covering of grass sod next week.

The field on the west side of the Parelli Building, was an unexpected development — among many unexpected developments, as the volunteer board of directors and the newly-hired school staff have worked with parents and community volunteers have worked towards the school’s opening next month.

Pagosa Peak Open School will host a Ribbon Cutting Ceremony and Open House Celebration on Wednesday, August 30 from 5:00 – 7:30pm at the Parelli Building, the location of Archuleta County’s new tuition-free public school. The event will mark the grand opening of the first charter school in the community to be authorized by the Archuleta School District. Pagosa Peak Open School will share its First Day of School with the other legacy schools in the District, on September 5.

Pagosa Peak is an intentionally small and intimate Project-Based Learning school, serving grades K-4 during its first year and expanding by a grade each year up to 8th grade.

We’ll be looking more closely at the “Project-Based Learning” educational model tomorrow in Part Two.

The phrase “Open School” in the school’s name refers to the idea that children have a natural desire to learn, and that desire can be encouraged when children are given access to multiple avenues to obtain the knowledge that interests them. Each student at Pagosa Peak will have their own Personal Learning Plan, so that their real-world work is built upon individual competencies and personality traits — thus allowing education to evolve as a creative process.

Pagosa Peak will also place a strong emphasis on Place-Based Education in order to engage students through outdoor education, hands-on projects, and community involvement.

In addition to receiving the same Per Pupil Revenue as the other District legacy schools, the school has managed to raise over $100,000 in grants and monetary donations for its first year of operation, on top of the three-year $405,000 Charter School Startup Grant received from the Colorado Department of Education. These funds will supplement building and playground construction, lunch program, student services, professional development, school gardens, and more.

All full- and part-time staff has been hired, classrooms are being set up, the playground is under construction, and enrollment is currently at-capacity for all grade levels. (Interested families are encouraged to get on our waiting list for the upcoming year.)

The Ribbon Cutting Ceremony will be held at 5:30pm on Wednesday, August 30, followed by a taco bar and tours of the school. Community members are invited to enjoy dinner, view the facility, meet the staff, and pick up school information. The school is located on the first floor of the Parelli Building at 7 Parelli Way, near Walmart in Aspen Village. The school website is PagosaPeakOpenSchool.org and the school phone number is 970-317-2151.

Tomorrow, a closer look at “Project-Based Learning” and how it can be an attractive educational option for elementary-aged children.

Read Part Two…

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Bill Hudson

Bill Hudson founded the Pagosa Daily Post in 2004 in hopes of making a decent living writing about local politics. The hope remains.