Durango Telegraph - A brief history of Children?s House
A brief history of Children?s House

In 1986, Diane and Scott Ardis established Children’s House with six students in the Crestview area of Durango. They outgrew the house after a year and moved to 1689 West Third Ave. It had been the rectory for St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, where Diane Ardis taught Sunday school and ran the kindergarten program.

“St. Mark’s believed in our project,” Scott Ardis said in an interview last week, “and the church agreed to carry our note until we could pay off the loan. It was a great gesture.”

A year later, the school filled to capacity, and it’s been that way ever since.

In 1995, Martha McClellan bought Children’s House from the Ardises. In the tradition of good will established by St. Mark’s, the Ardises in turn carried McClellan’s bank note.

“When we went to the bank to make the final transfer,” Scott said, “it happened to be September 11, 2001. We all did a lot of soul searching that morning. None of us knew if we, or the school, or the world would survive. But the bank said, ‘Yes. Go.’”

Throughout the transition, Diane Ardis agreed to stay on until McClellan could take over. And when she did, like her predecessors before her, she did everything, McClellan said: “I taught, cooked and directed the school up to April 2004.” In turn, McClellan helped new owners, Shalley Parmenter and Tom Joyner, by staying on to teach and transition the staff.

Zepeda has her own interesting history with Children’s House. She started as a part-time teacher, was trained by Ardis, worked under McClellan, and

became full-time four years ago. She’s been director for the last three.

“Our reputation is established,” Zepeda said. “That’s why we don’t have to advertise.”

The Children’s House teaching staff also includes Amy Peppler, assistant director, who has taught at the school since 1999; Stacy Schaetz; Rachael Sands; Carrie Byrd; Rosalind Garcia; Annie Philips; Brittany Mayfield; and Rebecca Rodman. Jodi Nute and Caroline Gabriel share cooking duties.

“Every day we have lunch at 11: 30,” Zepeda said, “a homemade vegetarian lunch. The kids help set the tables. We have linen napkins, and we sit down together. We go around the table saying what we are thankful for, and at the last, we thank the cook.”

– Judith Reynolds