New homey feel for Two Rivers charter school | PostIndependent.com

New homey feel for Two Rivers charter school

Two Rivers Community School first-grader Sebastian Gonzalez-West works with teacher's aide Christy Nilsson in their newly renovated building in West Glenwood.

The look and feel of the place is a lot different, but deep down Two Rivers Community School is the same happy family as it was last year, says seventh-grade student Grace Dotson.

"I like it. It's a lot more modern and looks nothing like it used to," Dotson said on the first day of school Wednesday for the preK-8 state charter school in West Glenwood, which underwent a major renovation and building addition over the summer.

"All of the teachers and everyone are still the same, though, so it still feels like a family here," she said.

Classmates Marie Rodriguez and Skyler Harbour agreed wholeheartedly.

"The space just makes for a better learning environment," Rodriguez said.

"It was a little confusing coming in first thing this morning," Harbour said. "But I feel like we're getting a taste of a real middle school that will prepare us for high school."

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Since the end of last school year, the former U.S. Postal Service distribution center that has housed TRCS since 2014 has been transformed from an open warehouse into a real school building with walled-in classrooms and dedicated spaces for science, art, Spanish and other learning opportunities.

The dual-language, project-based school also has a brand new, 8,500-square-foot early childhood/kindergarten wing and cafeteria/kitchen.

The project was paid for with a $10 million bond issue, secured through a capital campaign, including funds for purchase of the property located at Storm King Road and Center Drive.

School began Wednesday for 300 students. That's up from 220 last year for the school, which draws from both the Roaring Fork and Garfield Re-2 school districts. About 40 percent of students this year come from the Re-2 attendance area, said Adriana Ayala-Hire, director of business and outreach for TRCS.

The 21,000-square-foot postal warehouse has been converted into classrooms, office and storage space. The former rubber flooring has been removed, and the concrete hallway and classroom floors polished to handle the daily shuffle of feet.

Area rugs delineate sit-down spaces for studying or special presentations, and architects designed the open ceiling space to mimic a river. A mural, to be installed next month, will grace the north hallway wall depicting a mountain scene with wildlife and trees, Ayala-Hire said.

"It was worth the wait after all the challenges we faced in the old building trying to teach classes without walls or doors," said Alana Houseman, a second- and third-grade teacher since the school's inception.

"The kids will be able to learn with much greater depth with this new facility," she said.

Jamie Nimms, who teaches seventh and eighth grade and was the first teacher to be hired by TRCS in year one, agreed.

"Now we have the facilities to match the program here," he said.

Art teacher Terry Muldoon was in awe over the bright, south-facing "maker space" with its roll-top doors onto an outdoor patio that's shared with the adjacent science lab.

"It's just a beautiful place where the kids can create," she said.

Danielle Evans will run the school's new kitchen and cafeteria food service, which is still a work in progress for a few more weeks, as are the new playground and some of the other school grounds.

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