SAGUACHE — The ribbon cutting for the grand opening of Mountain Valley Schools (MVS) impressive new school building took place Friday, Oct. 18, and students are now enjoying the many modern features the school has to offer.
Well-furnished, open areas for informal education, a beautiful new gym, new playgrounds, spacious classrooms with panoramic views — all were lacking in the 50-year-old Mountain Valley School they used to attend.
Several guests were on hand for the school’s grand opening, including State Sen. Larry Crowder and State Rep. Donald Valdez, a representative of the Ute Indian tribe, a Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST grant) spokesperson and school construction supervisors.
MVS superintendent Travis Garoutte spoke first, calling Saguache “a hidden treasure” with beautiful natural surroundings. He commended the district for its students and staff that go “above and beyond” their assigned duties and the community that supports them.
Garoutte told those attending the ribbon cutting that his career at Mountain Valley spans 20 years. He first began teaching under then superintendent Pat Hillis, later became principal, and took over as superintendent in 2016. Garoutte thanked the community for their support and introduced Principal Kathy Hill.
Hill thanked voters, the design committee and contractors for making the school a reality. She has been teaching at Mountain Valley since 1986. She said her wish for the community is that the new school will once again become the hub for the town and the entire community can participate in the formation of students and their roles in the future.
MVS Student Council President Alyssa Hammel then spoke, saying she is “so honored” to be a member of the first class that will graduate from the school in May. Hammel called the school “amazing,” and thanked everyone who made it possible.
Second-grader Faith Coleman then spoke, noting the school is “really fancy,” also thanking the many people responsible for bringing it to completion.
State Sen. Crowder noted that Saguache was in more dire need of a new school than any other district in the Valley. He said he was “very impressed” by the hallways lined with pictures of Mountain Valley students and staff from the past. He finished by saying that with their new school, students now can look forward to the future.
Rep. Valdez thanked the voters and community for their support and told those attending the town now has a “quality school” where students can grow and make memories. He instructed students to always respect their teachers, elders and administrators.
Crowder and Valdez then presented the school with a snowy photo of the capitol building in Denver to add to their photo collection. He commented that the photo is to remind them their interests will always be represented before the state Legislature.
BEST Board member and former superintendent for the Elbert County School District, Denise Pearson, then relayed to the crowd what an honor it was to have collaborated in the construction of the new school and said how wonderful it was. She pointed out that the BEST grants have contributed $2 billion in funds to construct schools across the state.
Pearson asked Saguache community members to tell their elected officials and the state board (CDE) how much they appreciate the grant they received, so these grants can keep helping Colorado schools.
Architect Scott Dengel told community members their school building is specific to Saguache and its location, noting, “There is nothing like it in the world. It is so cool to see a building completed as it was once intended.”
The blessing for the school was delivered by Mr. Hanley Frost from the Southern Ute Indian Tribe’s Culture and Education Department. Frost recalled hearing stories from his grandparents about how the Saguache area dated back to the time of the dinosaurs in Native American lore.
He said that all those who helped make the dream of a new school a reality now know “anything is possible – you can see it right here.”
Community members, parents, students and MVS staff toured the school following the dedication and ribbon-cutting and marveled at its spaciousness and many innovative architectural touches. The airiness and broad expanse of hallways where children can gather for various educational activities were especially interesting to senior citizens whose schools consisted of a blackboard, eyes-front and teacher oriented.
“I’m really proud of our staff and community,” Garoutte said Tuesday. “It is especially hard to transition in the middle of the school year and they did a great job.”
In November 2017, voters in the school district passed a bond equaling 12 cents on the dollar to apply as a matching grant for the Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) grant the school received from the state. The grant came in at just under $31 million, Garoutte said Tuesday. He expects the total cost of the school to come in under budget.
The school broke ground for the project in May. Still to be completed is the asbestos abatement, demolition of the old school and construction of the football field and track course next spring.