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 School was designed by architect James H. Johnson and built under general contractor Maher Construction. Opened on March 7, 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 serve as a library and later a preschool.

Conifer's Population Growth Outpaced School Capacity

By 1970, the combined elementary-junior high was serving more students than it had building capacity, even with temporary buildings. 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, located about a half-mile north of the current West Jefferson Elementary School, from Louise C. Crosby in the spring of 1971. 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 Rinker with plans for three construction phases to bring the school's capacity to 250, 350, and finally 500 students.

In June 1972, 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. Construction began that summer, then stopped for an unusually cold and snowy winter. (The snow seasons of 1972-1973 and 1973-1974 both saw around 160% of the long-term average total snowfall in Denver.) When construction resumed, additional delays pushed the school's expected completion back through 1973 and finally into spring of 1974.

West Jefferson Junior High

West Jefferson Junior High School opened to students in grades 7 through 9 on March 21, 1974. The school received an addition and renovation in 1987. An observatory with a retractable roof opened in 1988. (As of 2015, the observatory was no longer in use for multiple reasons, including a lack of plumbing access.) A feasibility study in 1993 considered converting the school to a high school and constructing a new middle school, ultimately determining that a new high school should be built on a separate site. An eight-classroom addition was built for the school in 1995.

West Jefferson Middle School

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. The school began integrating STEAM and Problem-Based Learning into its curriculum beginning in the 2016-2017 school year. Funds from county mill and bond issues passed in 2018 are now underway, providing an estimated $3.7 million value in projects including landscaping and field improvements, updates to many systems (security, electrical, HVAC, plumbing) and finishes within the building, new furniture, sinks, cabinets and shelving, and upgrading interior lighting to LEDs.

West Jefferson Principals

Edward Turley, 1955
James B. Mortensen, 1955-1962
Robert L. "Bob" McCormack, 1962-1969
Charles Richard "Dick" Booth, Jr., 1968-1973
Howard Robert "Bob" Gilbertson, 1973-1978
Richard "Dick" Ransom, 1978-1983
Vera Dawson, 1983-1988
Gene Wurtz, 1988 -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

Amole, Tustin. "Schools’ growing pains." Rocky Mountain News, January 29, 1995.

Asset Management Plan: 1998-2003. Golden, CO, Jefferson County Public Schools, 1998. ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 436 933.

Bingham, Janet. "6th-grade shift to middle schools proposed." The Denver Post, December 5, 1993.

Colorado Education Directory. Colorado Department of Education, 1961-1990, accessed via Colorado State Publications Library research request.

Golden Transcript articles from 1955-1972, accessed via the Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection:

  • "County Children Now Enjoying Full Day School Schedules", March 10, 1955
  • "West Jefferson School Dedicated", April 21, 1955
  • "Here Are Your R-1 Schools [West Jefferson School]", June 6, 1955
  • "Conifer Junior High overcrowded", May 5, 1970
  • "Advisory committees discuss mountain school problems", November 20, 1970
  • "'Pre-engineered' classrooms: New construction for schools", June 24, 1971
  • "Conifer elementary school set", July 19, 1971
  • "Conifer school site could use gusher", October 20, 1971
  • "Conifer well producing, site called excellent", December 9, 1971
  • "‘Where’s school?’ asks West Jeffco", February 16, 1972
  • "W. Jeffco school lag draws fire", February 14, 1973
  • "More delays plague W. Jeffco school", August 22, 1973
  • "Conifer still hunting for new school", September 20, 1973
  • "Mountain school situation" [illustration], October 24, 1973
  • "Moving Day; Wrestling [Mountain School Views]", March 20, 1974
  • "Long wait pays off in W. Jeffco school", March 21, 1974

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.

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