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All the classrooms have river views

Preston Utley/Vail DailyVail Christian High School's new campus is being built along the Eagle River in Edwards.
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EDWARDS – They say it’s been a long time coming. And, for the staff, parents and students at Vail Christian High School, it certainly must feel that way.Yet, as the walls begin to rise this week on the school’s new campus, observers, looking back at the school’s beginnings said they couldn’t help but feel it was just meant to be.”It was unimaginable eight years ago that we’d be standing here on this site today watching this building go up,” says Pastor Dan Rohlwing of Gracious Savior Lutheran Church and the inspiration behind Vail Christian High School. “But we knew with God, all things are possible.”Next year, Vail Christian High School will move from temporary classrooms next to Gracious Savior Lutheran Church in Edwards and down the road to a permanent location on the banks of the Eagle River, across the highway from St. Clare of Assisi.”It’s amazing and exciting,” Head of School Topper Hagerman says. “Not only for our faculty and staff and Dan, but for the students and the families.” In the last eight years, the school has grown from 32 to 92 today, with a waiting list. The new campus, will be able to hold 192 students. “It will allow the school to open up to more students,” Hagerman said. “I look forward to Vail Christian High School becoming a beacon in the valley – especially to youth.”

Down by the riverEight years ago, Rohlwing says he had a vision. The valley had grown to the point it needed a Christian-based high school, he says. Founded in 1998, the school’s mission is to provide a “Christ-centered school in partnership with the home,” and to provide a rigorous, college-prep academic program in a Bible-based environment, open to people of all faiths, he says.That vision has grown to include not only many of Gracious Savior’s congregation, but students from all over the valley and more than nine different Christian faiths. In fact, only nine percent of this year’s student body come from Gracious Savior, while some 25 percent come from St. Clare of Assisi’s school; 34 percent from the Eagle and Gypsum, and 23 percent from Avon and Eagle-Vail.The new campus is set to open in August of 2006. Despite being between Interstate 70 and Highway 6, the site is surprisingly generous and serene, tucked on the banks of the Eagle River. In November 2003, the school struck a deal with Cordillera to purchase 140 acres along the river (and under part of I-70), and it was able to sell off some small parcels to help finance the new campus as well. “We’re very thankful to God,” says Pastor Rohlwing.

Outdoor laboratoryThe campus is planned in two phases. The 40,000-square-foot academic building is currently going up. It will rise from one story on the south side, which will house the administrative offices, to a two-story building on the river side, where all 10 classrooms will be located.”All the classrooms will have river views,” says Linda Isbell, a teacher and director of community outreach.For the faculty of Vail Christian, the connection to the river is spiritual as well as physical, Rohlwing says. “There is a connection of being right on the Eagle River and the Christian faith having been born on the banks of the Jordan River,” Rohlwing says. The lobby will reflect that connection too, and the cleansing aspect of baptism, with a water feature, entitled, “Living Waters,” he says. Science Department head Mindy Larson says she is excited about, “just being able to teach classes right out the back door.” She and her fellow science teachers will now be able to teach water physics and biology, as well as ecology, using the river as an outdoor laboratory, she says.



One advantage of waiting eight years to build a school is that there is plenty of time to design everything exactly the way you want it, Larson says.The new classrooms will have tabletop PCs, capable of projecting onto a board or screen at the front of the classrooms, and teachers will be able to teach from anywhere in the room. Students will be able to log into the computer network from home, and do homework, check assignments. “We want the technology to follow our students around, we don’t want them having to carry it around,” says Todd Glandorf, director of information and technology. “We’re a college-prep school which utilizes the most current technology and information.”‘It’s amazing’The second phase will house a fine arts center, with a 450-seat auditorium, art classes and a band room, as well as a full gymnasium with a locker room. The school fields football, volleyball, basketball, track and dance teams, and some 70 percent of the student body participate.Financing is still a hurdle. As of June 30, the school reports it had met 50 percent of the needed funds, but still needs to raise $2.5 million to close on the permanent financing in Sept. 2006.

Still, the school staff remains optimistic that it will begin construction on the 30,000-square-foot second phase in September, and have it finished in time for next school year, too. “To actually see (the campus) going up is really exciting,” Principal Bob Isbell says, adding it’s amazing, “to stand by the river and think what a wonderful place for students to gather.”This story first appeared in the Eagle Valley Enterprise.Vail, Colorado


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