Nearby schools better than Battle Mountain |

Nearby schools better than Battle Mountain

Nicole Frey
NWS Summit High1 KH 11-3-06

EAGLE County – The students at Battle Mountain High School have devised new ways of getting through the halls. In a school as crowded as Battle Mountain – about 720 kids squeezing through 6-foot-wide halls – you’ve got to have a plan or you’ll never make it through alive, they said. One strategy includes finding a big guy and following him through the throngs, said Battle Mountain student Pearl Burkham, 16. Or link hands with a dozen of your best friends making a chain to help pull each other through, Molly Allard, 16, advised. If worse comes to worst, push your way through and run. You may annoy some people, but that’s the price of making it to class on time. Be sure to know where the amorous teen couples will stop to make out, because they’ll stop traffic for the length of several classrooms. And make sure you’ve got every textbook in your backpack because there’s no time to visit your locker between classes, student Emma Szindler said. The students laughed good-naturedly about how crowded Battle Mountain is, but really, it’s a pain, the students said. And with all the other stuff they’ve got to deal with in high school – grades, sports, friends – devising schemes to get through the hallways should be the last thing on their minds. “It’s worse this year because there are more freshmen,” Talli Hitt, 16, said rifling through her massive pink book bag loaded down with books that could double as a free weights.With just two stairways to get kids from the ground level to the three other stories above, kids wait in line for their chance to climb the stairs, said Battle Mountain Principal Brian Hester. Stand and deliver

About 100 miles west of Battle Mountain, the students of Coal Ridge High School in Garfield County cruised through the 15-foot-wide hallways. The younger students at Coal Ridge could scarcely imagine a high school so crowded that students are forced to eat their lunches in the hallways or on the stairs because there isn’t room in the cafeteria. Such is the situation at Battle Mountain. The older students at Coal Ridge remember their more congested days at Rifle High School, where nearly 900 kids shared common areas built for 600 students. Battle Mountain’s 700 kids share common areas built for 400. In 2001, 61 percent of Garfield County taxpayers voted to give the school district $39 million. The school district kicked in another $6 million for a total of $45 million that went toward building a new high school, a new elementary school, a new addition at Rifle Middle School and a slew of upgrades and improvements to several other buildings. Today, all Garfield County schools feature wireless Internet, and Coal Ridge boasts new technology in the arts and sciences. Battle Mountain Lauren Wilson found some excellent video footage on line pertaining to the cellular respiration she was teaching, but the school’s Internet capabilities weren’t enough to download it, Wilson said. “The technology we have is just not conducive to student learning,” Wilson said. “This (classroom) was fine in the 1960s when it was stand and deliver education, but we need something better.”Building for the futureThough there are currently fewer than 400 students at Coal Ridge between New Castle and Silt, the common areas, like the cafeteria, were built to hold 1,000 kids. The classrooms can hold 500 students. Next school year, teachers will have to share all the classrooms.

“It really causes stress on the teachers,” Humble said. Sharing rooms and even giving teachers carts instead of classrooms has become a necessary evil at Battle Mountain High School.”Sharing classrooms where technology is not adequate, not having a place to plan and spending half the time traveling is not time well spent,” said Louise Funk, an Eagle- Vail parent working to get the bond passed. “I don’t know why we’re still resisting when everyone else around us has built a state of the art high school.”Aspen and Glenwood have recently built or are building new high schools. The Garfield County School District is going back to its voters this year, asking for $75 million for Phase II of Coal Ridge. Eagle County School District officials said they’re trying to avoid asking voters for money too frequently. Instead, Eagle County Schools is asking for $128 million all at once, but Humble said a larger bond could never have passed in Garfield County. “The 2001 bond program provided enough new and upgraded facilities to meet the immediate needs of 2001,” Hamilton said. “The program was completed in 2005. Since then, Garfield … has grown by about 17 percent, hence why we are running a bond campaign this year for additional facilities.” Humble said the school planned for what it would need three years out, but Eagle County School’s bond would build a high school to last through 2030.

Providing a better educationEast of Battle Mountain, Summit School District went to their voters for money not because Summit High School was overcrowded – the wide hallways and larger common areas are adequate for the more than 900 students and teachers have their own rooms – but because they wanted to expand their programs. About 63 percent of Summit County voters approved a $34 million bond and mill levy increase that allowed the renovation of an elementary school, new middle school, and other renovations and repairs. “It would have been devastating for us if it hadn’t passed,” Hamner said. “It would have been hard for school district to keep up with building maintenance, and we don’t even have to deal with growth like Eagle County. If these projects hadn’t happened, our students would go into buildings that are aging, problematic and not ideal for student learning.”A partially spruced up Summit High boasts state-of-the-art technology and computer classes lacking at Battle Mountain. Battle Mountain science and math teacher Miles McGeehan admitted when he toured the school before accepting a job, he was appalled at the technology at the school. “I asked, ‘Where are all the computer labs? Where are all the science labs?'” he said. “The facilities are archaic. I’ve never seen a high school in need as badly as this one.””I tell my friends, and they’re shocked,” McGeehan said. “They’re like, ‘You teach in Vail, and the high school doesn’t have equipment, and you don’t have a classroom?'”

A new wing at Summit High will expand vocational programs, including culinary, television production, medical and construction classes. An expanded Newcomer Center helps non-English speakers get up to speed. “Now, you can graduate from high school and be marketable immediately,” said Summit High Principal Jim Hesse. “Instead of flipping burgers, you can work in a doctor’s office.”It’s Hester’s dream to build on vocational programs in a new building too, he said. “We’re not meeting the standards we need to teach kids in the 21st century,” Hester said. “There’s always something you can do to make up for it, but it’s not as effective as we’d like to be.”===============================You know your school is crowded when• There’s a line waiting to climb the stairs.

• Students time their arrival at school to get a parking spot.• Teachers have carts instead of classrooms. • Kids eat lunch on the stairs because the cafeteria is too crowded.===============================Staff Writer Nicole Frey can be reached at 748-2927 or Vail, Colorado

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