Here’s to the graduates of a great community school

If last weekend was a touchstone of the community’s past, with family of Crested Butte old timers gathering to remember their time in this changing community, this weekend is a touchstone of the community’s future. Nearly 60 children will make the walk in their gowns and officially graduate from the Crested Butte Community School on Saturday.

These graduates have an idea, but may not yet fully appreciate, what they accomplished and what they will take with them as they enter the next phase of their life. The CBCS is not a place where kids go to wait it out. The school experience over there can be demanding, engaging, challenging and fun—sort of like a good life.

As a parent of two CBCS graduates and as a community member who remembers when students learned where KBUT is now and middle school basketball games were played in Jerry’s Gym, I’ve seen that the CBCS is a phenomenal place for our children to learn. That is not an accident. The people who are in charge of caring for and teaching our children from the time they enter pre-school to the time they take that walk this Saturday are extraordinary. The teachers, coaches, principals, front desk folks, cafeteria help, custodians, bus drivers, aides and parent helpers all contribute to shaping the lives of the village’s children. And the Crested Butte school embraces that community learning.

It is not unusual to see a class of elementary or middle schoolers walking in a pack as they explore the local museum, the haunted places of Crested Butte or the studio of the local radio station. I love that the school allows the kids to get up on the ski hill as part of their winter. The students in Crested Butte don’t just talk about affordable housing in the valley—they literally design and build affordable housing in the valley. The kids can explore sports, the arts, science, the trades, AP coursework, volunteerism. The CBCS is a great college prep school but the administrators work hard to reach and teach every student no matter what their interest.

Of course it isn’t always glitter and rainbows. And that is part of the experience as well. There is the unfortunate reality for this generation that they know the difference between a lockdown and a lockout and have to prepare for and deal with both. There can be experiences of overindulgence, of parties out of control, of trying new things and failing. But that is how people here learn. There are consequences to actions and for the most part, the school and the community allow the young members of the tribe to learn from mistakes while celebrating their accomplishments.

And I’m afraid some of the resources over at the school—teacher time and workload, physical space, overall numbers—are getting spread a little too thin. Before it gets out of hand and begins to impact the quality of the product, quantity needs to be addressed.

But for the most part, there is a reason the school is overflowing—parents want their kids to go there. People move here for the school. It is that good. As we reported just a few weeks ago, the U.S. News and World Report ranking of schools in America placed the CBCS near the top 1 percent in the country. It was listed as the fifth-best school in the entire state. It is consistently recognized for its excellence.

Look at the profiles of the CBCS graduates in this paper and see where they are headed. It’s not hard for a smart parent in Texas to do the math and see the benefit of the education and the cost of a public school like CBCS that can prepare their kid for a top-notch university. Do the math comparing tuition at a private prep school and consider the social benefit of living in a small mountain town with a resort, and for many it is a no-brainer. I truly believe that school has had more impact on the growth of the community than the sale of the ski resort to Vail or the 600th mile of mountain bike trail near White Pine.

So here’s to the end of what the graduates must feel has been a long journey—but is really just the beginning of a new adventure. Here’s to a great school that treats students with respect and as full members of a different sort of community. Here’s to a place where most kids can feel the personal relationship of those that teach them. Here is to the future.

—Mark Reaman

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