On February 5th, Huerfano School District Re-1, Artaic Group, Wold Architects and Engineers, and Nunn Construction will host a ribbon cutting ceremony followed by building tours for the new Walsenburg Junior Senior High School which will house grades 7-12 and expanded spaces for Career and Technical Education.
A Need for a Replacement
The original John Mall High School’s facility was built in 1970 and had fallen into disrepair and faced critical structural concerns. The Huerfano School District Re-1 pursued funding through the Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) Grant that with community support would help solidify plans to build a new replacement school. BEST Grant funding secures funding for schools that need updates or new construction, and often provides much needed funding for schools, especially in rural areas, that may not have access to other forms of funding for modernizing and improving their educational facilities. This makes BEST Grant funding an integral part of improving K-12 schools throughout Colorado. In 2020, the Huerfano School District Re-1 and the community passed the bond measure that secured the BEST Grant to match the contribution from the Colorado Department of Education.
The Evolution to a New Design
A collaborative team with Artaic Group as the Owner Representative, Wold Architects and Engineers, and Nunn Construction was formed to complete the design of the school in eight months and the building broke ground on August 12th, 2022. “We are honored to work with the Huerfano School District Re-1 to reimagine the original school into an innovative and inspiring home for The Pride of the Panthers,” said Job Gutierrez, principal at Wold Architects and Engineers. “The revitalized campus supports the school’s rich performing arts and Career and Technical Education programs and we are excited to see the space come to life and serve generations of learners for years to come.” To combat the structural concerns seen at John Mall High School from the unique soils of the region, the design team utilized a unique foundation system with over 285 drilled concrete piers to ensure the new replacement school will be around for decades. The new building was also turned to face the mountains to further emphasize the design which pays homage to the Spanish Peaks and the new Career and Technical Education spaces will better prepare students for a wide range of opportunities post-graduation.
As Superintendent of Huerfano Re-1 Schools, Michael Moore noted that it truly was an honor and he felt a sense of pride to be a part of the process to bring to fruition the completion of an incredible, new 7-12 school facility, named Walsenburg Junior Senior High School. “This facility shall bring great promise, pride and innumerable learning opportunities for our students and staff members. We are proud to be able to offer and grow in numbers, several Career and Tech programs such as Culinary, Construction and Design, Auto Repair, and Welding in state-of-the-art classrooms as well as, Special Education rooms to support the learning of Life Skills and modern, well-lit classrooms and open space learning areas. Our gymnasium and wrestling areas shall be second to none.
When we began this project, we wanted a “wow factor” and that’s exactly what we got! I am so incredibly thankful to have been a part of this project to give our students what they deserve.
This has been a long journey from the passing of the bond, application and receipt of BEST Grants, design development and finally the beginning and final construction phases.” Moore sends his gratitude and thanks first to the taxpayers of the community for making this project possible and second to the members of the entire design and construction team for their professionalism and being a pleasure to work with: the Owner’s Representative team at Artaic Group, Wold Architects and Engineers and the team of contractors put together by Nunn Construction, the firm hired to construct the new school.
A key element of Wold’s process in creating a new school that will meet the needs of a local community for decades to come is involving the staff in the design process. Heidi Dasko, Principal at Walsenburg Junior Senior High School participated in the programming process that helped establish the types of classrooms, spaces, and support areas for students, staff, and the community. In commenting about the design process and new building Dasko said, “Our new school symbolizes fresh opportunities for students to learn and grow, offers a positive work environment for staff, and becomes a focal point for community engagement. It represents progress, improved facilities, and a shared commitment to education, fostering a sense of pride and belonging among all stakeholders. When we began this project, we wanted a “wow factor” and that’s exactly what we got! I am so incredibly thankful to have been a part of this project to give our students what they deserve.”
A Building that Delivers on a Vision
After 17 months of construction the new building will be completed in time for staff and students to move into the new spaces for the start of the spring semester. When building in a more rural area, the construction team gets to become part of the local community and Walsenburg family. Tracy Perkins, Project Manager with Nunn Construction reflected, “With this project, we built the replacement school right next to John Mall High School’s existing building. It was great to see the local community and students come out and support us at every milestone and I’m proud to have hired 10 skilled tradespeople from the Walsenburg community who worked on Nunn’s self-perform concrete and carpentry work. We’re at the finish line now, and I’m thrilled for the students and staff to start using their new spaces. They really are state-of-the-art.”
Josh Vialpando was a 2001 graduate of John Mall High School and now serves as Assistant Principal and Athletic Director. “The new school is surreal! It represents the investment and commitment our community is willing to make towards the betterment of our children. I am more than grateful to everyone that has helped make this dream become a reality! It truly has been a community effort that everyone in Walsenburg should be proud of as we continue to progress into the future! “It takes a village to raise a child,” and Walsenburg has simply knocked it out of the park!”