An alternative to success

Photo courtesy Archuleta School District

San Juan Mountain School (SJMS) is an alternative education campus within the Archuleta School District. 

During the school’s first year of operation, students showed drastically improved attendance rates and increases in credit completion. 

More importantly, the student body unified around designing a school from the ground up, both inside and out. 

SJMS Principal Stewart Bellina said of their effort, “It is really exciting to watch a group of students who typically feel as though they don’t fit in school create a learning environment which works for them. They have taken the reins and developed a program we can all be proud of.” 

In its first year, the student body of SJMS created a mission statement, designed a logo, developed pillars of the school, chose a mascot and school colors, and developed a list of behaviors all staff and students should strive toward each day. 

Classes at SJMS are provided in a blended model. Students receive in-person instruction each day and have independent learning time throughout the week to work on assignments, receive individual tutoring and even move ahead in their class if they choose. 

SJMS educators develop curricula which centers around teaching fundamental skills applicable to the real world, such as a personal finance class in which students learn about interest rates, insurance, taxes and savings. 

Throughout the school year, students and staff take trips into the wilderness together and take part in service projects in an effort to give back to the community, see real-world examples of their classroom learning, and develop a stronger sense of community.

“What separates us from fully online schools is the opportunity to receive small group instruction from highly qualified teachers in each content area and our dedication to creating a supportive community,” Bellina said. 

Families with students who are struggling with the typical educational environment are encouraged to reach out to SJMS and discuss whether it is a good fit. To learn more about SJMS, visit the district’s website at sanjuanmountain.mypagosaschools.com.

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