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Rocky Mountain School of Discovery opens in Eagle after months of work

Rocky Mountain School of Discovery Eagle preschooler Asher Rhodes, left, and his classmates play with water and mud in one of the school's garden beds in Eagle. The school's new Eagle location opened on March 29.
Kristin Anderson/www.picturesbykristin.com |

EAGLE — To say that Anne Helene Garberg doesn’t give up easily is a classic understatement.

Her tenacity is a blessing for about 50 Eagle-area families whose children are now attending the Rocky Mountain School of Discovery.

Garberg could have walked away from her plans for an Eagle preschool when her application to open the school from her newly purchased home on Brooks Lane was denied. She could have scrapped her plan when she learned that the location she envisioned on Broadway required extensive renovation to meet state standards. She could have given up on locating her program at the former Eagle Montessori School site when the building owner said a lease was not available.

But Garberg didn’t quit and as a result, up to 30 children daily now attend her Eagle Rocky Mountain School of Discovery location. The school is open at the former Montessori site located on the west side of Eagle after Garberg again approached the owner and got a different answer.

“I am an optimist. Something always works out,” Garberg said, with a shrug of her shoulders.

Others offer a more celebratory take on her accomplishment.

“Sometimes you should just step back and say ‘Boy, things really can work out,’” said Eagle Town Planner Tom Boni. “She could have given up on so many occasions, but she didn’t.”

Garberg opened her first local preschool back in 2007 at the First Lutheran Church parish hall in Gypsum. For nearly a decade she has served up to 30 kids daily at the site.

She was initially drawn to expanding her program to Eagle when she read newspaper reports about the possible closure of Sunshine Mountain Preschool.

“I had filled up the capacity in Gypsum but I thought maybe I could help them,” Garberg said.

With remodeling needs at the Eagle Community United Methodist Church, the preschool was facing the loss of its longtime space. So while Garberg was willing to bring in a preschool program, she still needed to resolve the location issue. She thought she had found the perfect solution on Brooks Lane.

“We had been looking to expand in Eagle anyway and I wanted it to be in a farm setting,” she said.

The setting she found is idyllic, the access to it is not.

Farm centered

Last year, Garberg and her husband purchased their home on Brooks Lane, an older residence with a bit of land surrounding it and a panoramic view of the Eagle River. She envisioned operating a preschool program from the site where kids could spend lots of time outside, growing food in gardens, collecting eggs from hens and connecting with the natural world.

But entry to the site is off U.S. Highway 6 and across Union Pacific railroad tracks. After a series of public hearings, the Eagle Town Board turned down her special use permit application, citing the access issues.

“It was a long, complicated ordeal,” Garberg said, “but things happen for a reason.”

Undeterred, Garberg started looking for any possible preschool locations between Eagle and Gypsum. She settled on the former Alpine Ambiance location — a small house on Broadway located south of the Eagle Pharmacy.

When she applied for a special use permit for that location, the Eagle Town Board voted in favor.

“From a planning perspective, we look at needs,” Boni said, noting that there is a documented need for licensed child care options in Eagle County. “Was this right use for the site in 10 years or 20 years? Maybe not. But for right now, it was a good spot.”

Good from a land use perspective, that is. Not so much so from a practicality standpoint.

When Garberg complied a list of all the renovations needed at the site, it lost its allure.

“It just became too overwhelming,” she said.

By this time, both Garberg and the families she served where getting a bit desperate. She decided to talk to the owner of the former Eagle Montessori building again, and this time she got a different answer.

Good Will

When the owner agreed to a lease, Garberg had to move quickly. Her determination to find a space had won her some friends. When she needed a nimble response from local governments to make her program happen quickly, she got it.

“Everyone was on board in this last round,” she said, noting town staff signed her license to open immediately after she received her town board approval.

Because the space formerly housed a preschool, it is ideal for the Rocky Mountain School of Discovery. It features wide open spaces on the first floor and a second floor office space. There are child-friendly restrooms and a kids-paradise backyard. A large, miniature table gives children a place to sit down together for lunch and individual cubbies at the front door provide them space for coats and backpacks.

While she is thrilled to have the new space open, Garberg noted that the best part of the new school is it supports her vision of early childhood education.

Let kids be kids

“I just want children to have a happy and worry-free childhood,” she said. “We all come into the world as gifted and talented.”

A native of Norway, Garberg objects to harsh, academic environments for children. Instead, she urges them to gather in small groups to explore cooking and baking, arts and crafts, dress up or other options.

“Children make their own choices. We look at curiosity as the engine for all learning,” she said. “Let children be children. That’s my mission in life.”

Rocky Mountain School of Discovery can be reached at 970-390-7035.


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