Alternative high school finds a home in Edwards |

Alternative high school finds a home in Edwards

Melanie Wong
Edwards, CO Colorado
Dominique Taylor/Vail DailyStudent Dylan Cook, 15, center, gives a mock news presentation on Hurricane Katrina as fellow student Myranda Swedlund, 18, holds his notes and teacher Christina Gosselin, right, films him Wednesday at Red Canyon School in Edwards, Colorado.

EDWARDS Coplorado ” Red Canyon High School Junior Curtis Hart remembers when class met in a small house next to the Lake Creek water and sanitation facility in Edwards, Colorado and later in an ancient log cabin in Miller Ranch.

“It was definitely hard to learn at the Lake Creek campus. There were distractions and we were right next to the water and sanitation building,” said Hart, 16.

“This is much better,” he said, looking at the school’s new campus, a spacious, modern building complete with a welcoming common area, full kitchen for cooking classes and a new computer lab.

Red Canyon opened the doors of a brand-new Edwards campus by Miller Ranch this spring and held its official grand opening earlier this week. The public and school officials were invited to an open house and student “ambassadors” showed visitors around the new facility.

The school is geared toward students who aren’t comfortable with the social settings or schedules of larger, traditional high schools.

Some students have trouble learning in bigger classrooms, some need to work in order to support families, and other simply want the one-on-one attention and intimate environment that Red Canyon provides, said principal Wade Hill.

The school is an “expeditionary learning” school, meaning that instead of using textbooks and the traditional classroom structure, students focus on in-depth topics, and spend weeks researching and debating those topics. They bring in experts, do hands-on activities and even go out on field trips.

The engaging curriculum and interesting topics encourage the students to work hard and enjoy school, Hart said.

“It’s a different, good way of learning. It’s so easy, all you have to do is come and do the work,” he said.

For example, as part of a class on natural disasters, Junior Salvador Ortiz recorded a mock newscast segment, pretending to be reporting from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The students studied different disasters going back to the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and discussed the ways the incidents were handled, Ortiz said.

Students said the school’s teachers focus on forming relationships with the students and providing a close, safe environment.

“There are no cliques at this school,” Ortiz said. “Everybody gets along. At other schools, the Latin and Anglo kids are always separated, but it’s not like that here. Also, with the teachers, you get more one-on-one time. The teachers here are like my best friends.”

Ortiz is one student who needs the schedule flexibility offered by Red Canyon. The 16-year-old works nights as a dishwasher at Cordillera’s Mirador restaurant to support his family. He said he has ambitions to go to culinary school and become a chef.

For others, like senior Erik Young, the school’s environment has changed his entire attitude toward school. He started high school at Battle Mountain High School, but had trouble focusing on his school work and had a hard time in the classroom, he said.

“I took last year off. I wasn’t even sure if I’d finish high school,” said Young, 18, who plans to attend a trade school after graduating. “Now, I’ve been super excited about classes. I’ve been doing my work, and I’m actually willing to show up.”

“Keep an open mind about this school,” he said. “It saves a lot of the kids who are here. If it wasn’t for this, many of us wouldn’t be in school.”

Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2928 or

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