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History

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.

Conifer Junction Schoolhouse, also known as the Little White SchoolhouseIn 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 2012. The schoolhouse is currently owned by the Conifer Historical Society and Museum.

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 1970, the combined elementary-junior high was serving more students than it had building capacity, even with temporary buildings and West Jefferson Junior High appeared on a list of proposed schools for 1971. A site survey and planning process led to a purchase of 40 acres of land from Louise C. Crosby located about a half-mile north of the current West Jefferson school. The purchased was approved by the school board in July 1971 and using pre-engineered classrooms built by NHC Educational Structures, the new school was expected to open by September 1972.

Site survey and development delays pushed back the projected opening date of the school. The pre-engineered classrooms were reallocated to another school and a contract for the school's design was awarded in spring 1972 to architectural firm Anderson, Barker and Rinker with plans for three construction phases to bring the school's capacity to 250, 350, and finally 500 students. A few months later, the contract to build the school was awarded to Christensen and Company to begin at a capacity of 350 students including two additional classrooms over what was called for in the original contract.

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
Charles Richard "Dick" Booth, 1968-c. 1970
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.

Unattributed Golden Transcript articles from 1970-1972, accessed via the Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection. Copies of selected articles may be found in the Older Articles tab on our Press Clippings page.

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