Alongside resignations of top school officials, budgetary concerns and low enrollment, students at Children’s Kiva Montessori School lacked a permanent facility for the first six weeks of class, forcing them to start the school year outdoors.
The situation got negative reactions from parents and teachers, despite then-Head of School Susan Likes’ optimistic communications.
At least one CKMS parent, Alexis Cosper, complained to the school’s board of directors that, although she didn’t mind the temporary facilities, she felt misled by Likes’ construction updates.
“In (her) emails, (Likes) is making Herculean attempts to appear positive and inspiring in a difficult situation,” Cosper wrote in a grievance to the CKMS board. “Unfortunately, those attempts are backfiring; they have the result of eroding trust because I don’t feel we are being told the whole truth or all the facts.”
The CKMS board redacted identifying information from the copy of the email sent to The Journal, but copies of communications sent by Likes show that she was the main subject of Cosper’s complaint.
On Aug. 15, five days before school was scheduled to start, Likes notified parents via email that classes would be held outside because the new building would “not be completed for the first two weeks.”
“These statements are not the whole truth and gave the impression the building was currently under permitted construction and would be completed in two weeks,” Cosper told the CKMS board.
CKMS moved into its new building at the start of the seventh week of class. The school did not obtain a construction permit for the building until Aug. 29, something Cosper said she did not learn until Sept. 10, from an email by then-CKMS board president Chad Fish.
Cosper said in her grievance that such communication from Likes lacked “truthiness.”
After other complaints sent by parents and a person who claimed to be a CKMS staff member, Likes, Fish and CKMS board vice president Nate Seeley resigned on Sept. 24, a week before CKMS moved into its building on Mildred Road.
Likes and Fish declined to comment for this article. Seeley did not respond to The Journal’s calls and emails.
Teachers tire of teaching outsideFor 2½ weeks, CKMS held school in Centennial Park, near the school’s new home. In her “Welcome Back to School” email in August, Likes told parents to send their children to school with food, water, sunscreen and a hat.
Three teachers told the CKMS board after only the sixth day of school that they were feeling “burnt out” after teaching outside. They said they normally don’t experience burnout until the end of the school year, but the lack of internet access and a copier had made teaching taxing.
“It has been difficult without the materials to support learning, and the environment is not conducive to Montessori (education),” the teachers said, according to minutes of the board meetings.
Students and teachers met outside for 12 days before moving classes to indoor facilities at Crow Canyon Archaeological Center, which provided busing from CKMS’ Mildred Road location. The school used the Crow Canyon facilities for 4½ weeks before moving into its new building on Oct. 1.
CKMS’ search for a new homeSince moving into a facility on Beech Street in 2015, CKMS had sought a permanent building to accommodate the school’s expected growth and where children didn’t have to cross the street between classes.
After years of searching for a location, the school board voted on Oct. 23, 2017, to acquire the property on 2306 and 2310 E. Empire St. However, the deal fell through after, as The Journal reported, the tenants decided not to leave.
The CKMS board emailed parents the next day that the school would pursue other options.
“It appears that another party has entered into a purchase-and-sale agreement for that property, and it is no longer available,” the CKMS board told parents in an email sent Oct. 24, 2017.
By the next month, the board had set its sights on the old Justice Building at 601 N. Mildred Road, which was on the board’s short list of renovation candidates as early as September 2016.
The building was occupied free-of-charge by the Bridge Shelter at the time, but the shelter was forced to move after the county entered a contract on Jan. 29, 2018 to sell the building to CKMS.
On Feb. 27, the school submitted a conditional use application to the City of Cortez Planning and Zoning Commission. The Cortez City Council approved the application on April 24.
In May, the school entered a contract with Context Architecture Inc., of Durango, and on June 26, the school received a demolition permit, allowing crews from Kimble Construction to begin taking down some walls and other structures in the building.
Ongoing constructionAfter receiving an occupancy permit in late September, CKMS moved classes into its new building on Oct. 1, but construction at the facility was expected to continue for four to six months.
For now, students and teachers occupy a partition that has been sealed off from the ongoing construction and asbestos abatement.
Some HVAC systems have been temporarily disabled, and a plywood barrier has been built in an effort to keep contaminated material from reaching classrooms.
Classtime construction will continue until about Jan. 7, according to the CKMS board of directors, and perhaps as late as March 2019, when Phase 2 of construction is scheduled to be completed.
According to the CKMS board, another phase of construction will begin next summer, and the fourth and final phase will begin after July 2020.