“Everything began with a temporary acquisition of property in 1969″(by James Wright)
The Early Years 1968-1975
Although some events occurred in 1968, this era begins with DPS acceptance of a mountain property gift and ends with the construction, dedication and utilization of Balarat’s first permanent education structure in 1975.
A major plan for the development of Balarat was conducted by Charles Gathers and Associates during this era and that study directed the selection of the site that was chosen for the location of the education building. Soon after construction and dedication, that structure was given the name Elk Lodge. The name was chosen because of the buildings close proximity to a meadow (Elk Meadow) which in the winter months is frequented by a substantial herd of Wapiti. Although Elk Lodge was designed only as an education building, complete with chalk boards in its two classrooms — it was easily retrofitted as Balarat’s first dormitory and in September 1975 a group of fifth graders from Whiteman Elementary School became the first DPS children to experience a resident program at Balarat.
Establishing a Program 1976-1979
This era includes events from the spring semester of 1976 to the end of the 1978-79 school year. As in the previous era, a major planning effort was completed during this time (Balarat Master Plan Development Study, CU Environmental Design Graduate Research Group, 1977).
The CU study built upon the earlier Gathers Study. Era II culminated with the acceptance by the DPS Board of Education of the CU Design Group’s study that recommended an expansion of the Fifth Grade Resident Program and provided guidelines to direct the physical structuring, staff modification and budgetary considerations that such an expansion would entail.
During Era II Balarat staff began to regularly utilize alternate sites for day excursion; developed an extensive program that provided selected high school students the opportunity to assist with the Balarat resident program; streamlined and up-dated Balarat Eco-Seminar and clarified and expanded the resident program curriculum.
The Construction Years 1979-1995
This era spans sixteen years and was characterized by growth of Balarat offerings and standardization of operational procedures and policies and even though a second dormitory (Spruce Lodge) was built near Elk Lodge and was opened in 1981, staff was still unable to offer all grade five students a resident experience.
This situation was not remedied until Era III ended in 1995 with the completion of two additional dormitory structures near the existing Elk Lodge and Balarat Bunkhouse (Spruce Lodge). In the school year 1970-71, fewer than 1,000 students utilized the services of Balarat Staff and site. By the time Era II ended in 1979 that number had risen to around 15,000, and that number of annual users was maintained throughout Era III.
A Goal Realized 1995-2002
In 1995 housing to accommodate an additional 80 students was provided by the completion of two, forty-student dormitories. Funding for their construction was provided by a special district-wide bond passed by Denver voters in 1991. Funds were also provided at that time to underwrite the conversion of Elk Lodge from a multi-use facility to a dining facility. Those events set the stage to meet a goal for Balarat to accommodate a fully operational residential program for most DPS grade five students and their teachers. That goal was accomplished during the 1995-96 school year and Balarat Staff has continued to meet that goal each year since.