Desmond Tsosie ‘24 (with Rosie LeCompte ‘25)
Taking flight, Animas Ospreys tear into the sky immersing the clouds in colorful arrays of art, sound echoing throughout the high desert mountains, and Pandionidae, (a family of ospreys), preparing for painting peculiar patterns in our blank canvas.
Perched next to Fort Lewis College, overlooking the Animas Valley, our new building is a gift to be shared with generations of Ospreys. Ospreys are already filling the hallways with projects and art pieces, making Animas High School not only a place of education, but a gallery, a studio, a new home. Two trailers of which felt miles away from each other, now it's a few steps to our next class.
We at Animas are more connected than ever. With this connection, with this space, with this stable structure of pillars and glass, we are ready to move forward into making this not just a home, eyrie, blank canvas, but Animas High School!
The dream became a reality, from a strip mall engraved with sentiment and positive memories, two trailers filled with student creativity and falling ceiling panels, to now a grand entrance in the next development of Animas High School’s chapter, we are so lucky to be a part of this evolutionary historic event!
The timeline of building this dream has taken decades of hard work and dedication from figures such as journalism teacher Jessica McCallum, who states
“It’s amazing, I have so many words and yet I struggle to find the ones to describe how important this feels. I feel like we graduated into our own identity finally, we've been forming and trying to progress in education and we’ve never had a great space to do and now we finally do! This is game changing, my ability to do my job has enhanced.“
The dreams of founder Jesse Hutt, developed around her dining room table in 2005, are finally becoming a reality.
“[The other founders and I] hoped to create an environment that encourages curiosity and creativity, collaboration, learning authentically; the sky is the limit, and it is now up to the students to do what they do," Jesse expressed. "I want it to be known as a school of innovation and welcoming environment that can grow so more students that are interested can come here."
“It’s been a long time coming,”
current Board President Jeff King recalled.
“It took a lot of hard work from a lot of people, not only current folks, but also from previous folks, including the most committed Head of School Sean Woytek, who pushed this project forward. And we are equally as fortunate to have Rebecca Ruland as our new Head of School to take it forward.”
Teachers and students are excited to be here after all of this time.
“The new building is even more than I could have imagined. I feel so grateful to have this absolutely gorgeous new space,”
Office Manager Bridget Stowers enthusiastically shared.
“I love the amount of windows and the light that it brings into our school. I love the interior windows too. It makes me so happy to walk around and see students and teachers working and learning in the classrooms. I am so excited to see the projects that will be created and exhibited in this new space. I can imagine wonderful creations going in and out of the huge garage doors. I envision critical thinkers and fully engaged students filling our beautiful new building.”
Just weeks into this new chapter, we have seen exhibitions and projects come to life in the new nest, Juniors and sophomores have already held exhibitions in the new diverse spaces that the new building holds. Juniors showed a great example of what the future holds and what it means to be an Animas Osprey through incredible art pieces filled with emotion and meaning, music, and delicious appetizers, deserts, and entrees, in our chemistry Exhibition, And sophomores have shown creativity in their Space Travel Exhibition!
Students are thriving, when you put one foot through the door or even arrive on our campus you will be greeted by a smile on students faces, a student holding a door, a group of students working together on a project for a class. You will be greeted by people, not just students wanting to get through the day, slooching in hallways, sleeping on desks, and throwing paper airplanes in every direction.
Most will be amazed by what Animas High School has to offer which is what separates AHS from the rest.
“We recently had two families visiting who were sent off with student ambassadors to do a tour of this building, in the old building we had to do this song and dance show to be able to convince these families to consider us as a reliable source of education. Now here we get to finally prove we really are an amazing school! It feels amazing!”
Dean of Enrollment Libby Cowles states.
Students are coming forward with how much they love the change and what they are planning for the future of their time at animas.
“I am feeling pretty good in the new building, it has been a big change but I know that we will be able to adapt well. I was very nervous at the beginning, the building is big and it doesn't feel as cozy as our old buildings. It is a lot better though.”
Junior Shea Davis exclaims,
“I am hoping that we will be able to decorate the new building and give it the Animas feeling. I want it to become cozy and warm when we walk in. I would also like to see more cross grade communication and such. I haven't seen anyone from the other grades really, and it seems like everyone just runs to their next class when in the halls. I miss being able to talk with the sophomores.”
”I think that there has been a lot of change to my learning. I am able to focus a lot in some of the classes, because of the smaller class sizes, but I also feel very exposed, which is also fine. I feel like the teachers have more attention for individuals now that there are smaller classes. The school is big and it feels like a traditional building, so I feel like I have to act better and be more attentive and studious.”
Art and expression is the most requested change for Animas’s New Building,
“I think I’d like to see some more personalization with the classrooms, we’re still Animas High School and we should have a time to make it our own.”
Mia Macon says
“I am happy with how close everything is and how many opportunities we have, being so close to Fort Lewis College and in town will definitely give us more success.”
Our New Building is home to comfortability in our community and our expansion in classrooms and hallways.
“The Commons are really nice, I had to get used to lighting at first though once I did I loved it.”
Junior Llew States
“It’d be nice if we made more comfortable spaces outside of our classrooms and expanding comfortability in all areas of the building, more couches, more furniture, and more student impacted environments”
Ending with the class of 2026, We’ve all once had to walk on the campus of the old building, now that we have a change in environment we also have a change in mood.
“I’m so happy I don’t have to walk outside to get to my classes, it's a lot more spacious and I love the upstairs and downstairs of the building giving us more room to move, its great”
Sophomore Mitchell Bidart excitingly says,
The space is a huge part of Animas High School now, the beautiful interior and hallways, all of this space free for art and projects and expression, yet one of the most impactful aspects we now have is, Light!
“I love the new building, there are a lot of things I like about it, such as the garage doors! I think that is a really neat aspect of our building; it opens up for a lot more opportunities for our projects. I love all of the windows as well. We never have to turn the lights on, that's how big they are and how much light they bring in. The new building is very inspiring, I actually have the motivation to get work done and be more productive.”
Junior Ariana Silva adds.
All Students, All Teachers, adore the windows. Every single figure from freshmen to seniors to teachers have all stated that their favorite part of the new building are the huge windows, which makes a lot of sense! One of the best views of Durango from AHS is located in the Music Room and it is phenomenal!
“I’m super excited, we finally have a chance to live in a space that exemplifies what we’ve always wanted to do.”
Dean of Students Dave Farkas has been thrilled for the change in our environment, mentioning the expansion of the makerlab and hallways a number of times, though one of the most important changes isn’t only the change in scenery but the space students now have to work.
“I see the new building as a place students get to hang out, I love to see that students are all over the place working on projects. I think one of the issues in our last building was, when students left the class, where did they go? Students used to come to my room, I would have 20 kids in there or if they worked in hallways they would sit on the floor. Now in the new building if you want to work in the hall, Great! There will always be a table waiting for you.”
We are growing and expanding, into something unimaginable, this is working, it is successful, plans for the future of students are in action and success is about to skyrocket. Animas High School started in a strip mall, an idea of freedom in education and project based learning, grew into a foundation, and now formed into what we see at AHS today. There is a family in the San Francisco Bay considering Animas, a family in Austin Texas, and even in Barcelona Spain considering sending their children to AHS, this wonderful school filled with hope now with the body to prove it.
Head of School Rebecca Ruland states
“I think the New Building is absolutely stunning, it makes me feel inspired and calm. I like being able to walk down the halls and see people studying and learning and there's a sense of tranquility. In the old building people were cramped and on top of eachother and in this building there is more space.”
The journey to create this new space has been a long one started more than a decade ago, staff have been working on this project for years now and we acknowledge these amazing people for the effort they put into our education and future.
The planning and creation of this building was a huge collaboration, involving teachers, students, parents, board members, and founders. Since public schools can't take on debt, Animas formed a separate organization, the Animas High School Building Corporation, to take out loans and fund the project. The board applied for and obtained the Colorado BEST grant, which covered 75% of the total cost. Animas was given $13.8 million – $20 million for the building as a whole. The rest of the funding came from private donations and a bond passed by Durango 9-R. The board hired Anderson Mason Dale Architects to construct the building, then they found a general contractor and started planning. Teachers and staff were deeply involved in planning the building's layout and furniture, and students also offered their input.
Recently departed chemistry teacher Steve Smith was a key member of the team that made this building a reality, serving on the Building Corporation for a few years.
“The energy and excitement in the school in the last few weeks has been infectious, and has been felt by everyone who set foot in our hallways. As someone who has helped work on the project of securing this permanent campus, I feel relief, gratitude, and joy,"
"Now all of the efforts that went towards finding this permanent home can instead be devoted to AHS' primary mission of providing transformational educational experiences.”
The music room is a highlight of the new building. Everyday students pass by the open room filled with light and sound. We have musicians playing everyday, crashes and kicks moving through the walls, bass lines fill the halls, and melodies sung throughout the foundation of this building,
Animas is working hard to develop strong relationships with Fort Lewis College. Fostering these connections was a major theme of the remarks of FLC President Dr. Tom Stritikus, who delivered the first speech of the evening.
“Part of the Fort Lewis College vision is students at the center and putting knowledge into action,"
Tom reminded the audience.
"Students at the core is part of the shared vision between Fort Lewis and Animas.”
He spoke excitedly about the potential for future collaboration between the students and faculty of the two institutions, an excitement shared by the AHS community. (See “Skyhawk Teacher Education” story on Page 7 to learn more about the beginnings of this collaboration!)
Sophomore Cassidy Hayden voiced similar excitement from a student's perspective during her speech at the Ribbon Cutting:
“The new building comes with some new opportunities… Along with insane views, [our proximity to FLC] also gives us the chance to do concurrent enrollment….In the next two years, I’m hoping to take classes at the Fort and understand what college is like. Conveniently enough, we’re also a college prep school, and it’s pretty easy to prepare with a college right next door.”
This dream, this goal has been reached. This story of hard work, creativity, and dedication will always be remembered, and this accomplishment will exist within AHS history for decades to come. The Animas community is beyond excited to see what comes next for us in this new phenomenal space built in one of the most beautiful places on Earth. As current Physics teacher Julian Springer put it,
“The roof has been raised, literally, and now the sky's the limit for Ospreys to soar and reach their full potential.”
This dream, this goal has been reached. This story of hard work, creativity, and dedication will always be remembered, the only melancholy feeling most students have is that we expressed ourselves so much in the old building. This accomplishment will exist within AHS history for decades to come.
Our journey is just beginning. We will soar to new heights thanks to the faculty and staff that helped AHS come to life. Some may think we are at a conclusion of something that has been growing and in planning for years, we are only in the beginning of what will be a wild and exciting journey, Animas High School only built their foundation for this new school, now it's time to create a legacy, at our blank canvas, our eyrie, our home.