$10M campaign leads to broad upgrades at CRMS | PostIndependent.com

$10M campaign leads to broad upgrades at CRMS

Bob Ward
Post Independent Correspondent

Colorado Rocky Mountain School is nearing the end of a five-year effort to modernize its Carbondale campus and align its facilities with its college-preparatory programming.

In 2010, officials at the 60-year-old private boarding school launched the $10 million "Forging the Future, Preserving the Past" campaign, intending to reorganize the campus and upgrade residential, academic and administrative buildings according to a master plan from 2002.

Now, with the successful completion of a new Welcome and Administrative Center at the entrance to campus off County Road 106, school administrators are anticipating both the end of the long effort and an unexpected bonus that capped the campaign and raised it to a total of $10.6 million.

"We absolutely accomplished the goal that we had set for ourselves," said Head of School Jeff Leahy, "and during the process we were able to achieve some capital improvements that we hadn't originally contemplated."

Virtually every aspect of school operations — academic, arts/music, outdoor programs, residential buildings, administration/business — has been touched by the campaign. Two new 20-student dormitories replaced an outdated 40-student building, which was converted into the new administrative center. A dedicated music building was created to round out the arts programming and complete a new arts quad.

The school's aging hexagonal science building was given new life as a library/learning center, and the science department was relocated to a new level of the school's Jossman academic building, where cutting-edge classrooms now include flexible spaces for both labs and lectures.

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Admissions director Molly Dorais spends much of her time introducing prospective students and families to the school. Convincing these newcomers to apply at CRMS has become much easier for her now that the physical plan reflects the quality of the school curriculum and mission.

"The buildings and facilities are now up to par with the rest of the program," Dorais said.

HISTORY

John and Anne Holden founded CRMS in 1953 as a boarding school for "college-bound boys and girls who are sound of body and mind and full of a spirit of adventure." The East Coast transplants located the school on a 300-acre ranch overlooking the Crystal River for both the scenic value and to engage students in manual labor. Even today, CRMS students grow fruits and vegetables for the school kitchen and create coat hooks and railings in the blacksmith's forge.

The school's ranching heritage remains important to both staff members and alumni, but many of the old buildings are unsuited to a 21st century school. Thus the "Forging the Future, Preserving the Past" campaign sought to improve the facilities while respecting school history. This dual mission is reflected in the abundant use of earthy colors, log accents and ranch-style motifs in the new and renovated buildings.

Another leftover from the past is a public right of way that runs north-south through the campus from CR 106 to Dolores Way. As part of the campus reorganization, the school sought to vacate the pedestrian path to improve security, but Garfield County refused. In October 2015, school officials and county commissioners reached a compromise that enabled the public to use the path and cross the campus on foot or bike with certain restrictions, and the county agreed to spend $22,000 on trail improvements.

OUTDOOR EDUCATION

CRMS has long been known for taking its students out to hike, ski, bike, climb and paddle. CRMS passenger vans are a common sight on the dirt roads of the Elk Mountains and in the red-rock expanses of the Utah desert.

The original capital campaign included a modest facility for preparation and deployment of the school's various outdoor trips, but when Development Director Lisa Raleigh approached the Alpenglow Foundation about supporting the new center, the foundation urged her to envision a building that really met all the program's needs.

In the end, with support from the foundation, the school was able to design a purpose-built active center. Construction will begin in 2016, and the new facility will include several rooms of equipment storage, a wet prep and clean area, a map room/classroom and even a bike and ski tuning shop.

"To be able to close out this campaign with a well-designed, dedicated and highly functioning Active Center was an extraordinary way to cap off what was already an unprecedented amount of generosity," Raleigh said.