FORT GARLAND — Despite below-freezing temperatures, students, teachers, families, and community supporters gathered to participate in the ribbon-cutting ceremony for Sierra Grande School District. Students, faculty, and staff proudly wore smiles and t-shirts boasting, "New Year. New School. New Memories."
The event on Jan. 8 commenced with students Samuel Gonzalez, Aleigha Sanchez, and Lindsy Paine, stepping up to a podium that was nearly too tall for some of them, to proclaim their excitement and to express pride in their new school. The moment spoke to Sierra Grande’s values — emphasizing that this school was for the students.
As staff member Chris Parrill succinctly said, “Our collective dream came true…everybody deserves the chance to become a better student.”
Along with eager students and Parrill, community member Bernadette Cisneros traced the journey from memorandum to realization in her speech, conveying just how hard the community worked and came together to see this dream to fruition.
School Board President Walter Roybal proclaimed this moment as a “milestone in Sierra Grande’s heritage” and he spoke with pride about the “strong heart[s] of the community” that will “carry Sierra Grande’s heritage forward.”
To close the ceremony, Superintendent Darren Edgar explained that each student will take part in the ribbon cutting, each receiving a small piece of the ribbon as a valuable artifact of this milestone.
As students made their way back into the school, community members and partners alike awaited the opportunity to tour the school. With a welcoming, open floorplan and large windows exposing the mountainous land, Sierra Grande students now have a beautiful school in which to grow and flourish. A new school that has been built as Edgar said “for not only current students but also for those who will follow in (their) footsteps.”
“This event is symbolic of our state’s commitment to educational excellence for every child in Colorado and marks the beginning of a new era in how we educate children in our community here in Blanca,” said Colorado State Treasurer and former K-12 educator Dave Young. “Preparing our students for the rest of their lives has never been more important than right now.
“This is a place where our children will have the tools to realize their dreams and potential, and the focus will be on enhancing education through rich content and innovative hands-on and minds-on activities. The new, safer school will be a game-changer in how we educate children and will make Blanca appealing to families for decades to come.”
In 2019, Sierra Grande School District received a grant of $35.2 million to replace the school. The school district contributed a $13.78 million match, with the total project just short of $49 million. Construction began in June 2020. Students will move in to start next semester, then the existing facility will be demolished and site work completed through the summer.
BEST is the only K-12 capital construction grant program in the state of Colorado.
Since its inception, 151 out of 178 school districts across the state have received BEST Grant Funding, improving learning environments for more than 325,000 students. During 2021, BEST generated $234 million in school construction projects, creating or supporting 4,095 jobs.