At the remote southern end of the San Luis Valley, the highest-elevation agricultural valley in North America, South Conejos PK-12 School’s close-knit rural community experiences very cold, dry winters, mild summers, and almost 300 days of sunshine per year, which influenced many design strategies. This community has strong Hispanic roots, beginning with Spanish exploration of the area over 300 years ago and homesteaders from New Mexico settling there in the 1850s. Students can proudly trace their family history back several generations.
Stakeholders included students, families, educators, and community business leaders, who came together to create design criteria that reflect the community’s vision to provide a full range of educational opportunities to students of all ages, celebrate their history, and provide a center for connecting the young and old. The building has three distinct areas: a central zone where the Cafeteria/Auxiliary Gym also serves as the “Town Plaza” for large community gatherings, and two separate academic wings to meet the specialized needs of primary and secondary students.
There is a range of flexible-use and technology-enabled learning environments, along with age-oriented outdoor courtyards that incorporate physical activity and a connection to the outdoors. The Media Center, with its cylindrical “Kiva,” is the heart of the school, serving as a much-loved hub for meeting and study.