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A new opportunity for students at Lone Tree site

Building will be home to three programs, including Eagle Academy

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Quinn Hunchar doesn’t like being confined to a classroom. She prefers reading books and watching documentaries.

“School is not my thing,” the 18-year-old said. “I felt like I was being shoved in a box.”

When she told her parents she wanted to drop out of high school, they weren’t on board. Then she found Eagle Academy, an alternative afternoon and evening school that used to be housed at Highlands Ranch High School. As of late October, the school has its own space at the new Douglas County School District Opportunities Center, 9350 Teddy Lane, Lone Tree.

“This place is an opportunity for people who didn’t fit that mold to grow and learn and better themselves,” Hunchar said at an Oct. 24 ribbon cutting ceremony. “I think it’s going to open a lot of doors for Eagle Academy.”

The 27,5000-square-foot building, south of C-470 and west of I-25, will also house the school district’s Bridge Program, helping developmentally disabled students transition from high school to adult life, and Early Childhood Center, offering developmental assessments for children from birth to 5 years old.

First built in 2008, the facility served as a medical office. The school board voted 6-1 to purchase the building earlier this year. Board member Wendy Vogel voted against the move, citing concerns about funding, other capital needs in the district and the impact on nearby residents. More than 200 residents of Heritage Hills, which backs up to the building, were against the purchase due to traffic and noise concerns.

The district and a team of architects, engineers and a contractor began a $2.3 renovation to the building in January 2017.

Staff of the building’s three groups, as well as district leaders and city officials spoke at the ribbon cutting, calling it a success for the school district and the community.

“It’s a wonderful achievement,” said state Rep. Kim Ransom, whose District 44 includes Lone Tree. “I’m very proud of what they have all accomplished.”

The building combines the needs of three different user groups, according to the school district.

Early Childhood Center will have a four-person Child Find team — it will be the fourth location in the county, with others in existing schools in Lone Tree, Castle Rock and Highlands Ranch — that provides free screenings and evaluations to Douglas County families to determine eligibility for services.

Interim Superintendent Erin Kane said she utilized Child Find when her children were young.

“It made all the difference in the world,” Kane said at the ribbon cutting ceremony.

The Bridge Program offers living skills and pre-employment training to about 95 developmentally disabled adults. Baylee Ginther is in her second year in the program. The 19-year-old from Highlands Ranch went through Child Find and then attended Eldorado Elementary School, Ranch View Middle School and ThunderRidge High School.

Ginther’s mom, Julie, was nervous about the opportunities offered to Ginther after high school, she said. Thanks to Bridge, Ginther will spend the next three years learning, cooking — one of her favorite activities — and helping out at businesses in the community.

“It does my heart good to see the district values our students and the program,” Julie Ginther said.

Eagle Academy, which currently has 125 students, will be able to accommodate 150 students at the new building.

“Now,” said school board director Anne-Marie Lemieux, “you guys have a space to continue to flourish.”

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