The Children’s Kiva Montessori School has rapidly transformed its space at 25 N. Beech St. from a warehouse into an open-floor plan schoolhouse, only months after gaining a conditional-use permit from the Cortez City Council.
The 5,700-square-foot building had been used as a bakery, body shop and art collective, and is now the main campus for the Kiva’s 10 staff members and 85 students in first through seventh grades. It’s almost double the size of the space it shared with the Children’s Kiva Preschool on E. Empire Street, and students and staff say they’re happy to be in a larger space in the heart of the city.
“When we first looked at this building, we started looking at the neighborhood. ... You have the Cultural Center, the radio station, fire station, post office and so many great businesses that we could take walking field trips to,” said board member Nathaniel Seeley.
The hustle and bustle of the location caused trepidation with a handful of residents, business and city council members in July as the school requested a permit. It sits just a few dozen feet from the truck traffic on Main Street, and issues of student safety, parking constraints and traffic backups were raised.
The city granted the three-year permit with several conditions, including a council review each March.
Almost a month into the school year, Kiva and city officials say its been a relatively seamless start.
“I know that the whole process was hard – it’s the unknown. We’re thankful for the opportunity from the city council to show that we can make this work,” said Josh Warinner, Kiva’s executive director.
The school has been training staff, students and their families on traffic safety and protocol for picking up and dropping off students. For example, families are required to drop off children at a back entrance on E. North Street, not on Beech Street. And a crosswalk links the school to its cafeteria building, located directly across the street.
Mayor Karen Sheek says she has not heard negative or positive comments about the school since it opened.
“I’ve driven by the school, and I know (City Manager Shane Hale) has been on-site to see how loading and unloading of students is working, and things seem to be going smoothly,” Sheek stated in an email. “One afternoon when I was driving north on Beech, a little girl waited patiently on the east sidewalk until the traffic monitor gave her to signal to proceed, and children with their bicycles were all waiting on the west side of the street as a group before proceeding. This indicates to me that they have received instruction in traffic safety and proper behavior.”
While staff is excited about its new downtown hub, the goal is to build a unified campus behind the preschool on E. Empire Street. The Kiva, founded in 2014, has two years until it can be deemed a “viable operation” by the state. The designation opens up grant funding opportunities for construction, Warinner said.