Early History

Organized education in Conifer dates back to residents filing for the Junction School District in 1860. Classes began in 1885 at the Hutchinson schoolhouse, located about a half-mile south of today's intersection of Barkley Road and Highway 73. The district purchased a second building in 1911 that had been used as a church by the previous tenants; this building, located south of Kitty Drive, was known as the Junction schoolhouse.

In 1922, local property owner John J. Mullen loaned property adjacent to his yellow barn to the school district and the Conifer Junction schoolhouse was built. Also known as the Little White Schoolhouse, this building served students from first through eighth grades from 1923 on. The Conifer Junction schoolhouse's property was sold to the school district in 1946, transferred to Jefferson County Public Schools' ownership in 1950, and remained a district property until it was sold to the Conifer Historical Society and Museum in 2012.

Jefferson County Public Schools

The Conifer school district became part of Jefferson County Public Schools with the county's reorganization in 1950. The need for a consolidated Conifer school was acknowledged and a second teacher was assigned to the Conifer Junction school. By 1953, seventh and eighth grade students were being sent to Evergreen Junior High School, located where the Evergreen Library is today, and fourth through sixth grade classes met in the Pleasant Park schoolhouse – now the Pleasant Park Grange – during the fall of 1953.

Following a bond issue in 1954, West Jefferson Elementary School was built. Opening in March 1955 – with additions made in 1960, 1963, and 1965 – the new school brought Conifer's students back in close proximity. The Conifer Junction school continued being used as an overflow classroom until 1965, when it was converted to a preschool.

By the early 1970s, the district was considering pre-engineered school construction to help meet the demand for new schools to accommodate our county's booming population. West Jefferson Junior High appeared on a list of proposed schools in 1971, but no land had been acquired by the time Conifer residents asked the school board in February 1972 when to expect the "promised school". The district purchased 40 acres of land from Louise L. Crosby with proceeds from a December 1971 bond issue, then an innovative design/build process that made it feasible for fifteen schools to be built in just over two years included the Conifer area.

West Jefferson Junior High School opened to students in grades 7 through 9 in 1974. The school received an addition and renovation in 1987. The school transitioned to a middle school, serving students in grades 6 through 8, in 1996, and celebrated forty years of educating Conifer's students in October 2012.

West Jefferson Principals

Bob McCormick, c. 1962
Dick Booth, c. 1966
H. Robert "Bob" Gilbertson, c. 1970
Dick Ransom, c. 1975
Vera Dawson, 1984
Gene Wurtz, ? -1991
Byron Tucker, 1991-1994 
Jean Kelley, 1994-2008
Frank LaViolette, 2008-2011
Becky Brown, 2011-2018
David Schoenhals, 2018-2019
Kim Halingstad, 2019-present

Works Cited

Granzella, Phebe. A Century of Jefferson County Mountain Area Schools. Jefferson County Historical Commission, 1993.

Kennedy, Lois Cunniff Lindstrom. A Tribute to Education: Jefferson County, Colorado. Golden, CO, Jefferson County Public Schools, 2001.

Lomond, Carole, and Stephen Knapp. Jefferson County, Colorado: a Unique & Eventful History. Golden, CO, Views Pub. Co., 2009.

Longino, Opal, editor. The Manuscripts of Hazel Olive Bennet Kettle. Western History and Genealogy, Denver Public Library, 2009.

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