Snowy Peaks Junior High and High School cuts ribbon on building expansion |

Snowy Peaks Junior High and High School cuts ribbon on building expansion

The Yetis of Snowy Peaks Junior High and High School have a bigger, better den in the mountains. Summit County’s only nontraditional public school unveiled its expanded educational space at a ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday. The expansion, which was funded by a 2016 bond measure passed by Summit voters, will accommodate the school’s new junior high program for seventh- and eighth-graders.

The expansion has tripled the size of the school, which has also tripled in pupil enrollment from 27 in 2014 to almost 90 students today. Celebrating the completion of Summit School District construction projects, Snowy Peaks’ ribbon-cutting ceremony marked the last of nine over the past two years. The 2016 bond measure raised approximately $70 million for construction projects in the district, with $20 million devoted to projects at Summit Middle School and Snowy Peaks.

Accompanied by a large crowd, cookies, confetti and cake, Snowy Peaks principal Jim Smith said that he was humbled and proud of the community’s support.

“It’s incredible, the amount of support we get from the community to support a nontraditional school,” Smith said before the ribbon was cut. “The original vision for the school was as a dropout prevention program, but it has morphed into something just beautiful and amazing.”

Smith said that Snowy Peaks provides “an opportunity to support any kid that just wants and needs something different” from a traditional school environment. He said Snowy Peaks students benefit from a “relationship-based” approach that gives them personalized assistance according to their needs.

“We believe that some students learn better with more one-on-one support and more individualized attention,” Smith said. “We have smaller classes and less social distractions. Our staff also pride ourselves on always leading with love and end with hope. We treat students like they’re our own children.”

School superintendent Kerry Buhler said the students are also a big part of what makes Snowy Peaks special.

“Many of them have not had success in traditional schools, or had struggles in school, family or social life that kept them from thriving,” she said.

Buhler added that the key to Snowy Peaks is making sure students are welcomed and valued, regardless of their circumstance.

“What they find here is complete acceptance,” she said. “It doesn’t matter where you’re from, what your background or attitude was before you walked through the door, once you walk through the door you’re a Yeti. Being a Yeti means you’re part of the family, and accept everyone for who they are, to know that every single day is an opportunity to do something different than what they experienced before.”

Several students shared their stories about what Snowy Peaks meant for them. Jory, a senior, said that he “wakes up every day and looks forward to coming to school,” which he said was a first for him. Eighth-grader Geraldine said Snowy Peaks is “less of a school and more of a family.”

Wiping away tears, Annie, a senior, said she was graduating in December despite being convinced she’d drop out and never make it.

“This school has definitely changed my life,” Annie said. “It’s not just a building, it’s a community, and it’s changed my life.”

Graduating senior Brian Ortiz said he also had a tough road to graduation, but that Snowy Peaks was “the best school ever” as he looks forward to college in Mexico.

After everyone had their say, a few dozen students stood in a line with beaming faces in front of a very long, red ribbon. Accompanied by Smith, Buhler and several members of the Summit School District board, the students cut the ribbon and gave a big cheer as the new and improved Snowy Peaks officially opened.

Smith said that the Yetis were a special bunch, and they exemplified how love and kindness can bring out the best in kids.

“When you provide students with an extraordinary experience, they’ll give you extraordinary results.”

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