Back To School, Back To Class
A Promise is a Promise
By Dr. Carrie Besnette Hauser, CMC President
Resilience, grit and stubborn determination define us. Carving out a living in remote western Colorado has never been easy or guaranteed. While we are lucky and privileged to live here, it takes a genuine love of place to withstand the hardships common to our region—scant affordable housing, major transit disruptions, fires, floods, blizzards, drought and now a virus.
The challenges inherent to our beloved part of the world force us to innovate and adapt, to resourcefully imagine new strategies and blaze new trails. In doing so, they also deepen our commitment to our communities and to one another.
In May, shortly after graduating one of the largest classes in CMC’s history, it seemed that the fog of the pandemic was lifting. Hope was pervasive and seemingly palpable. Miracle vaccines were abundantly available even in rural communities like ours. Consequently, public health orders were lifted, masks came off, hugs and high-fives returned and tourists—many, many tourists—poured into our resort towns.
With some confidence that the worst was behind us, the team at Colorado Mountain College made a promise to our students and communities following one of the strangest and most challenging years ever: CMC will be fully open in fall 2021.
For much of the summer, this promise seemed assured; we began preparing for a “normal” fall term. We scheduled needed maintenance to residence halls, hired the largest cohort of new faculty in recent memory, launched new degree programs and adjusted our classrooms back to pre-pandemic settings. Students responded. Enrollments rebounded and our operations again hummed along with an excited, anticipatory buzz.
In recent weeks, however, our hope-filled plans were disrupted like the mudslides that closed I-70 through Glenwood Canyon. The virus mutated and returned in force, most acutely among populations unprotected by a vaccine developed by some of the greatest scientists the world has ever known. We always knew such an event was possible. We’d seen the signs and heard the warnings, but hoped all would be OK.
It’s not all OK, yet.
The resurgence may be a “pandemic of the unvaccinated,” but it is indeed a real situation for the college and our communities. Though exhausted from the past 18 months, all of us at CMC are again adapting to ensure that students can return to campus and avoid disruption resulting from a viral resurgence.
We made a promise.
And, because we keep our promises, we are making real-time adjustments to launch a safe and successful fall semester. Starting the first day of classes, we will require the wearing of masks in all CMC buildings and classrooms. We hope this requirement will be temporary, as our college is starting from a position of strength. Nearly 90% of our faculty and staff have been vaccinated, which is a higher vaccination rate than in many of the communities CMC serves.
By requiring masks initially, we hope to prevent the transmission of the highly contagious Delta variant and deliver on our commitment to provide a safe educational environment. If public health conditions improve and vaccination rates increase, we will reevaluate our masking procedure. If they worsen, we will adapt to those realities as well. Either way, we will not give up on our students or our communities.
It is also important to remember that Colorado Mountain College is an open-enrollment institution. We welcome all and turn away none. Maintaining this level of access is an important part of the college’s mission and values.
We are beyond thrilled to welcome thousands of students back to CMC campuses for the fall 2021 term. We won’t see their smiles at first, but we know how much it means for these students to return to a “normal” environment.
To all of the members of CMC’s communities, and on behalf of the courageous faculty and staff and eager students starting or continuing their academic careers, thank you for supporting your local college. Please help us start this year in an orderly way, with grace, humility and kindness.
Personal choice also comes with an obligation to consider and care for others. Ultimately, we will get back to “normal” in its fullest meaning. Until then, we will keep our promise to you. CMC is open for business.
Dr. Carrie Besnette Hauser is President & CEO of Colorado Mountain College. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @CMCPresident.
Lake County Elementary School
“We have a great second week of school at LCES this week,” school officials at the new Lake County Elementary School reported on the district’s website on Friday, August 27, 2021.
“It was so much fun to see students in classrooms learning and engaging in the work. It is also great to see our students following our habits of a learner: Perseverance, Collaboration, Craftsmanship, Compassion, Responsibility, Curiosity, and Respect. Students can earn Crew Cards each day for showing these habits and be entered to win a prize each week. Be sure to ask your student how they are showing these habits at school.”
Photos of LCES by Leadville Photographer Wayne Thomas
Child Care Ready To Open in Leadville
After months – and months – of a gap in care for the smallest and most vulnerable population in Leadville Today, this mountain community’s only year-round childcare center is getting ready to open. According to its new Executive Director Sara Luna, Bright Start Learning Center is currently accepting applications for employment.
“We are hiring lead teachers and aides!” reads the learning center’s website. Interested applicants can send a resume, cover letter, and 3 professional references with contact information to email@example.com or visit Bright Star Learning Center for more information.
All the best to these renewed efforts, because the lack of childcare in Leadville has placed a great burden on families. Hopefully, this solution will stick, because it sounds like Grandma and Grandpa need a break! Good luck, Bright Star! If you know a qualified individual who is great with children, please encourage them to apply.
CMC names Cairns as VP
Sometimes the best candidate is ‘right in your own backyard.’ After an extensive national search, Colorado Mountain College has named Lake County High School Principal Ben Cairns as the next vice president and campus dean for its Leadville and Salida campuses.
Cairns began the transition from the high school to CMC effective August 2.
“Ben is exceptionally talented and a terrific fit to lead CMC’s Leadville and Salida campuses,” said Dr. Carrie Besnette Hauser, president & CEO of Colorado Mountain College.
“He is a committed public educator and a natural leader who believes an affordable, high quality, equitable education is essential to our mountain communities, region and state.”
Cairns has been principal of Lake County High School since 2016. The Denver area native has a long career in education including time teaching in Uganda, developing a restorative justice program for Denver Public Schools and opening a public charter high school in Denver.
“I’m proud of the work I’ve done to help Lake County High School become what it is today, and I’m thrilled by the opportunity to help Colorado Mountain College continue to serve the residents of the Arkansas River Valley,” Cairns said. “I am passionate about internships, concurrent enrollment, life-long learning and the role CMC can play in the community.”
The leadership role at CMC is available after the departure of Rachel Pokrandt, who led the Leadville Campus for nearly five years. She was recently tapped for a college presidency in Oregon.
“The college evaluated a large, diverse and talented pool of applicants in its search for this important leadership role,” said Bob Hartzell, who represents Lake County on the CMC Board of Trustees. “We are grateful to Ben for his service to Lake County High School, and we look forward to the new energy he brings to the Leadville and Salida campuses.”
Salida resident David Armstrong, who serves as a liaison to the CMC Board of Trustees, agreed that Cairns is the right choice for the Salida and Poncha Springs communities, adding the longtime educator always puts his students first.
“I am confident he will be able to jump right on the train of positive progress that is happening here,” said Armstrong. “Growth and innovation will continue under his leadership.”
Lake County School District Superintendent Dr. Bethany Massey said the search for Cairns’ replacement is planned for the fall semester. As the start of the school year quickly approaches, Assistant Principal Erin Dillon will take on interim principal duties, and she will be assisted by Academic Dean Lisa Berman until a new principal is hired.
“While we are sad to see Ben go, we know he won’t be far as he starts his new role at the college,” said Massey. “In fact, this change will only further strengthen educational opportunities for students across the entire Arkansas River Valley.”