Animas High School finds home  

After nearly five years in the making, Animas High School has found a home. The alternative local high school, which will focus on offering a tuition-free “21st century education,” announced its new location this week. The school will open August in a nearly 10,000 square-foot location at 3206 Main Ave.  

Animas High School has been taking shape in recent years as an alternative to Durango High School. The charter school will be based on San Diego’s High Tech High, a college-prep school that has been replicated all over the country and stresses the use of technology and real-world situations as a path to life-long learning. Late in 2007, Animas High School received approval from the Colorado Charter School Board to open a 440-student public high school in Durango. The approval means that Durango students will have the opportunity to attend the smaller school free of charge.

Animas High will begin its first year with a 100-student ninth-grade class and grow from there into a full high school. Gisele Pansze, of the Animas High board of directors, noted that the North Main Avenue facility is well-suited to the Animas High School mission.

“This space is ideally suited for Animas High School,” she said. “There are windows along the entire front and back sides of the building, allowing natural light to enter. The interior, which is two stories, can be easily modified to be compatible with the school’s teaching methods and curriculum.”

Pansze added that the school will be located at a central location that will also provide quick backcountry access. “The school’s proximity to open spaces will allow the teachers to easily incorporate studies of the natural world – like the biodiversity of the Animas River – into their classes,” she said. “It’s a space that will enhance student’s learning.”

Animas High School will utilize state of the art technology because digital, distance learning has become a critical element of innovative education today. The entire school will be accessible through a WiFi hotspot system.

Nancy Heleno, facilities chair for AHS, commented on the process of selecting the site, saying, “Through this progression of site selection, our board has had the pleasure of working with local community members and property owners who have gone out of their way to help us find a great location for our inaugural year. We are pleased that this site places our students within a mile of Durango High School, where they can participate in athletics and other after-school activities; half a mile from the Rec Center; a block away from a trolley stop and within easy access to the River Trail and open space.”  

Property woner Dan Hopper expressed his eagerness to help the school. “Animas High School will be an asset to our community, and I am pleased to enter into this agreement,” he said.

The school will open its doors to 100 freshmen this August. One grade will be added during each ensuing year until 2012, when all four grade levels will be in place.

For more information, visit

Durango to ‘Take Back the Night’

Durangoans will ‘Take Back the Night’ this Thurs., April 16. Though sexual assault and abuse are often hushed up, several Fort Lewis College student groups, three community-based victim service agencies, and dozens of residents will send a different message this week.

“The perpetrators are the ones who should feel shame, not the victims,” said Andrea Rossi, march organizer and FLC student. “This event provides a powerful opportunity for victims to say ‘no more!’ and for the community to show that violence will not be tolerated here.”

Take Back the Night will begin with two 5: 30 p.m. speak-outs, one for males at the FLC Clocktower and one for females in 130 Noble Hall. County commissioner Joelle Riddle will be speaking at the female rally, and Michael Rendon, SASO executive director and Durango city councilor, will address the males. 

“Interpersonal violence can affect different genders in different ways, and we want to be sure everyone feels comfortable sharing their stories,” explained Rossi. 

The two groups will then come together at the clock tower at 6:45 p.m. to march into Durango and down Main Avenue to Rotary Park.  Following the rally, slam poet Victoria Eberle will be performing at an open mic at Steaming Bean Coffee from 9-11 p.m. The public is invited to attend all components of the event to share their stories, show support for survivors, and demonstrate their commitment to ending violence of all kinds. For more information, contact

Navajo wind farm moves ahead

A massive wind farm is beginning to set roots in the Four Corners. Two companies are currently vying for the opportunity to build the Navajo Nation’s first renewable energy project – a $1 billion wind farm near Cameron.

Both Sempra Energy and Citizens Energy are courting the Navajos with plans to build 100 wind turbines atop Gray Mountain. Citizens has offered the tribe 20 percent of the project, while Sempra has offered undisclosed benefits, according to a report in the Arizona Daily Sun. The Navajo government is currently weighing the two offers with the hope of having the farm in operation by 2012. Wind projects near Kayenta and in the northern Chuska Mountains along the New Mexico/Arizona border are also being considered.

However, the Gray Mountain project is mixing opinions. The prospect of 400-foot tall turbines is particularly unsettling for some residents of Cameron and Gray Mountain, some of whom still have no electricity or running water.

Marie Howard, of Cameron, has been offered promises of power to her home if she will sign a petition in support the project. But she refuses. “People think that it’s a good opportunity for their kids, but I don’t think so,” she told the Daily Sun.

Others see the farm in a brighter light. Sina Nez, of Cameron, said she feels wind power is a far better option than coal mining and coal-fired power. Neighbor Tex Walker agreed, telling the paper, “I think it’s good because it’s the first time we ever had anything like this on the whole reservation.”

The fate of the wind farm and the company that will build it should be clearer in coming months.

Solar rebate window draws to close

Area residents and small businesses needing a boost onto the renewable energy wagon have just one week to apply for 2009 solar thermal rebates.

Rebates for new home systems are $1,500 or $3,000, depending on the size of the solar thermal system installed; homeowner repaired/retrofitted system rebates are 30 percent, up to $3,000; and new system rebates for businesses are 30 percent, up to $9,000. The deadline to apply for these grants is April 20, and systems must be installed or repaired/retrofitted by June 30. The rebates offer residents of La Plata and Archuleta counties a substantial savings on going solar.

“With a combination of the GEO rebates and tax credits, Colorado home and business owners can save 50 to 55 percent on solar hot water installations,” said Aileen Tracy, 4CORE executive director. “In addition, these systems can save an estimated $250-$500 per year in energy costs.”

Applications can be downloaded at http: // More information is also available at 259-1916.

– Will Sands