CENTER CONSOLIDATED SCHOOL JOINT DISTRICT NUMBER 26
Center Consolidated Schools has a fascinating history that spans nearly a century.
It began on September 18, 1918 when a vote on consolidation was taken in the Center community, thereby forming the Center Consolidated School Joint District Number 26. The District was made up of a portion of old districts that included the Central Farm and Wertz Districts in Rio Grande County, and the Sutley, the Welty, the Meadow Ranch and Dunn Lane Schools of Saguache County. In each of the former districts, the vote for consolidation carried by a large majority.
In October 1918 the organization of the new Consolidated District was completed and the first Board of Education elected. The Board was composed of Adam K. Deitrich, President, John W. Turner, Treasurer, and J.J. Sylvester, Secretary.
In December 1918, a bond issue of $82,000.00 for the purpose of erecting a new elementary building was carried by a vote of 83 for and 5 against.
That January, the company of Mountjoy, French and Frewen were employed as architects for the project and in March of 1919 a contract with the Advance Construction Company. was signed for the construction of the building.
On January 3, 1920 a second bond issue of $45,000.00 was unanimously approved for the completion and furnishing of the new building.
The new consolidated school building was a two-story brick structure 308 feet in length and 87 feet in width. It contained 35 rooms, including study halls, recitation rooms, laboratories, offices, shops, furnace rooms, as well as a library, gymnasium and auditorium. Not to mention 19 small rooms used for cloaks and storage of supplies.
The building stood near the center of a thirteen-acre plot of ground which was used as the school campus. The front of the campus was eventually beautified with lawns, shrubs, and trees, while the back of the property was used for an athletic field and playgrounds.
At the time of dedication on Wednesday, March 24, 1920 the new building was billed as the “Largest Consolidated School Building in the United States.” A crowd estimated at over 3,000 attended the dedication exercises and 2,250 guests were served at a celebratory banquet.
The San Luis Central railroad ran a special train carrying 125 passengers up from the Town of Monte Vista that day. Hundreds of automobiles from all parts of the Valley were parked on the school grounds. Transportation was also secured in large numbers and driven to Monte Vista early in the morning to bring the educators who had come from great distances to Center.
Subsequent facilities were added to the district as time passed by. A new High School was built in 1950 and a Middle School was added in 1961. The Middle School was subsequently named after Harvey Skoglund, a Center High School graduate, teacher and long time Superintendent.
A Vocational Arts Building was constructed in 1975 in conjunction with a complete renovation of the original school building, which now serves as the District’s elementary school. The Elementary Building was re-dedicated on January 8, 1975. Since then the original auditorium was turned into a Multi-Purpose Room, and then the Multi-Purpose Room was renovated into 4 extra classrooms in 1989.
On May 20, 1988 Center Elementary School was named in honor of Center’s long-time prominent Medical Doctor, John W. Haskin.
Facilities improvement continued as a new High School “Viking” Gymnasium was designed and built in 1990. The old Middle/High Library was expanded and renovated in 1997 and named after long time librarian Mary-Lou Fyock, and a new wing containing 7 additional classrooms was added to Center High School in the summer of 2000
The history of Center Consolidated School’s athletic programs is long and storied as well. The 1950 boys basketball team won the state title as did the 1962 football team. The 1956 football team, the 1962 baseball team, and the 1986 baseball team each finished second in the state championship playoffs.
Center Schools established the Center High School Athletic Hall of Fame in 1998 by inducting Felix Garcia, Claude Jaramillo and Orlando Trujillo as its charter members. The hall honors former outstanding athletes who proceeded to become model citizens as well.
Extracurricular programs have blossomed from the original football, basketball, cheerleading and track programs to include baseball, volleyball, cross country, and soccer as well. In addition to this, students can now participate in Odyssey of the Mind, Knowledge Bowl, Color Guard, Marching Band, Student Council, KEY Club, Drama, and any of the numerous clubs that now exist.
During the 1990’s, under the guidance of the Board of Education and Superintendent Gary Kidd, Center Consolidated Schools designed and built the most advanced school technology network in the San Luis Valley. This network has been instrumental in supporting the District’s effort to individualize instruction for both advanced and at-risk students.
Still the strength of Center Consolidated Schools has been its people. From its beginnings as a consolidated country school that served mostly farm children, to the tremendous ethnic and language mix it enjoys today, the focus of Center Schools has been on the important task of educating it’s children.
With programs designed to fill the students needs and quality facilities designed to assist in carrying out such efforts, the patrons of Center Consolidated Schools have indeed developed a school system worthy of pride.
Contributed by Mr. George Welsh & Mrs. Betty Casanova.
The Town of Center sits in the heart of the beautiful San Luis Valley in southern Colorado. The San Luis Valley is surrounded by the majestic Sangre de Cristo and San Juan mountain ranges. The Valley is economically dependent upon agriculture. Having once been Ute land then Spanish territory, we have a rich Southwestern heritage and the ethnic mixture of Center Schools is 10 percent Native American, 15 percent Anglo and 75 percent Hispanic. Each culture provides a strong influence at Center Schools and a harmony and interaction not usually realized in other schools.
Center Schools is 250 miles south of Denver, 30 miles northwest of Alamosa and 140 miles east of Durango. Center sits at an elevation of 7,645 feet. The terrain has been leveled to suit farming needs. Our major crops are potatoes, lettuce, alfalfa, barley, and most recently, carrots. These crops require manual labor for harvesting. Many parents of our students are employed at the local potato warehouses.
There are many beautiful places to visit near Center in the San Luis Valley including the beautiful Natural Arch; the Ancient Indian Writings in stone; and, the world-renowned National Monument, the Great Sand Dunes.
Hunting and fishing in the San Luis Valley are as fine as you will find anywhere. Big game hunting includes elk, deer and antelope; fowl includes ducks, geese and pheasants. The great large Sand Hill or Blue Crane spends several weeks each year in the San Luis Valley at the Monte Vista Wild Life Refuge. Animals often seen from the roadways include: deer, elk, antelope, Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, fox, the ever-present coyote and at times bobcats, bear and mountain lion. Near Center is a ranch with approximately 700 head of buffalo.
Other sites to visit include: the famous Cumbres Toltec Narrow Gauge train ride pulled by a great historic steam engine in Antonito over breath-taking scenes of the Cumbres Pass and Toltec Gorge. Monte Vista, home of the famous Ski-Hi Stampede and Rodeo, is only 14 miles south of Center. Creede, home of the Repertoire Theater, is also close by. Guest ranches, river rafting, horseback riding and fishing are enjoyed by many around the South Fork area, approximately 30 miles southwest of Center. You may also enjoy Winter Skiing at Wolf Creek Ski Area just an hour's drive away.
We welcome you to Center, Colorado, the heart of the San Luis Valley!
March 7, 1995