School district moves forward with alternative high school

By Randi Pierce
Staff Writer

The Archuleta School District Board of Education heard about and moved forward with items related to the district’s newest school, San Juan Mountain School (SJMS), at its regular meeting on June 9.

SJMS is slated to be an alternative high school on the campus of Pagosa Springs High School that is anticipated to open with up to 40 students in the fall.

A modular housing the school was originally slated to be placed near the district’s vocational building, but, as Project Manager Todd Stevens told the board, drainage is an issue in the area.

Instead, Stevens proposed that the modular be placed on district-owned land to the north of the school’s parking lot and explained that doing that would require consolidating several lots.

Stevens presented a visual of the SJMS building on the lot, with that rendering also showing a potential future building trades building on the same vacant land, which caused several board members to express concern.

Superintendent Linda Reed and Board of Education President Brooks Lindner informed the board that the location of the building trades building at the site is just an idea and visual that could help Build Pagosa with its fundraising for that particular building, with both noting the focus for next fall is on the new alternative high school.

Board member Bob Lynch suggested that it would be best to frame the building trades discussion separately.

Several of the board members expressed their support for the lot consolidation, but also their concern that more site-planning discussions or discussions about the usefulness of the parcel to the school district take place before any decisions are made to build on the land.

Board member Dana Hayward suggested that locating both buildings on the parcel would create limitations if either program were to expand in the future — a point Finance Director Mike Hodgson conceded they had not looked at.

Hodgson and Stevens also informed the board the benefits of consolidating the lot include more flexibility in placing buildings on the site, noting the consolidation could be undone in the future, and Hodgson noted he believes selling the parcels would be a mistake.

Board President Brooks Lindner suggested the motion should focus on the lot consolidation for the alternative high school modular.

Board member Bruce Dryburgh indicated it was clear to him consolidating the lots is the “sensible thing” to do.

Later in the meeting, the board voted unanimously to move forward with the lot consolidation.

At the same meeting, the board also heard the first reading of a policy setting the graduation requirements for the school.

School Principal Stewart Bellina explained that she took the board’s advice and looked at regional and area schools, and worked with a team that includes the school’s teachers, Scott White and Andy Guinn.

They decided, she noted, to require 22 credits to graduate — the same as GOAL Academy and similar to other high schools in the area.

Pagosa Springs High School requires 28 credits, Bellina noted later. 

“As the San Juan Mountain School seeks to establish graduation requirements, one thought is paramount,” a report to the board states. “We would like to make sure that our graduating class of seniors is well prepared for the transition out of high school to post-secondary education or to workforce participation.”

That document also details the proposed requirement for graduation:

“Language arts: 4 credits

“Math: 3 credits (including pre-Algebra, Algebra1 and something beyond)

“Science: 2 credits (including 1 laboratory science)

“Social studies: 3 credits (including U.S. History, World History, civics/ geography)

“PE / Health: 2 credits

“Technology: 1 credit

“ICAP: .5 credit

“Leadership: .5 credit

“Capstone project: 1 credit

“Additional 5 credits of electives (freshman seminar, internship, humanities, etc).”

Assistant Superintendent Laura Mijares, who also worked as part of the team on the graduation requirements, explained the state is moving toward competency.

“It’s going to be a great addition,” Lindner stated following more discussion on the matter.

Bellina stated the school already had more than 20 applicants at that time, and later noted that the school wants to work with students to tailor the required credits to the students’ career-readiness plans, such as taking a technology class that will provide applicable skills for their desired work environment.

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This story was posted on June 24, 2020.