A Glimpse into Jeffco Education: Past and Present
by Kelly Cvanciger

Local schools, often reflections of diverse socio-economic populations, are woven within the fabric of every neighborhood surrounding them. Rich cultural connections of the immediate community are showcased within the brick and mortar structures: hallways lined with art, the sound of music, and children’s voices. Although schools existed in Jefferson County as early as 1860 in Golden and Arvada, the population boom at the turn of the 20th century led to efforts that consolidated the 39 smaller school districts that had formed within the borders of the county. Schools such as Vasquez, Mt. Vernon, and Bear Creek faced blossoming communities and stresses on school building infrastructures. New ways were considered to govern the increased student populations, from the one-room schoolhouses in Golden to the multi-storied facilities such as Bear Creek Consolidated School sitting in the shadow of Red Rocks. By 1950, under the guidance of Fletcher Miller, a reorganized and consolidated entity known as Jefferson County Public Schools R-1, emerged. Miller, Jeffco’s first school superintendent, offered a unique public school option to children county-wide. However, around the R-1 district, rich histories still persisted that harkened back to a bygone era, as other types of schools formed to offer outlets for a diversified student population, including schools designated for vocational training, alternative education, and specialized services for children with developmental disabilities, intensive needs, and for English language learners.


Bear Creek High School: A Comprehensive School for All Children

In 1894, the Montana School opened its doors as a one-room schoolhouse in southwest Denver, now the city of Lakewood. This was the beginning of what would become Bear Creek High School, the home of the proud Bears, which would become known as the school’s mascot. Nestled in the foothills of Jefferson County, the Montana School educated students in grades one through eight. Yet, as the population of Denver grew, the need for the inclusion of secondary level grades was in the forefront of people’s minds. Even amidst the Great War abroad and the domestic turmoil of the Great Depression gripping the nation, education was still a priority. By 1920 it was clear that Bear Valley needed a secondary school. In 1923, Bear Creek Consolidated School opened its doors to students as a K-12 school. The Montana School, converted into the residence of the building custodian, stood for posterity until 1957 when it was torn down. With Colorado’s legislature 
passing the Education Act of 1949, known as House Bill 900, counties placed measures on their local ballots in an effort to gauge consolidation interests. By 1950, Bear Creek Consolidated School, considered a rural school, educated 311 students and employed 16 teachers. In May of 1950, all 39 smaller districts within Jefferson County reorganized and emerged as Jefferson County Public Schools R-1.

MontanaBear Creek Consolidated School was renamed Bear Creek High School, graduating its first senior class in 1952. Offering a diverse array of classes such as bookkeeping, spelling, typing, industrial arts, and general education (now called social studies), Bear Creek High School was the heart of its small farming community. Church services and 4-H events were held in the gym every Sunday while the PTA sponsored a carnival annually, bringing together the entire population of Bear Creek. Bingo games and silent auctions were the highlight of the carnival as pigs, farm tools, and sacks of chicken feed were raffled off to the highest bidder. By 1951, the school was so large that the bus barn and custodial house (former Montana School) were forced to convert into three additional classrooms.

The Bear Creek area reaped the benefit of reorganization, including an increase in funding which offered the chance to build a new school building in 1956, despite votes against consolidation into R-1 in 1950. Issue 2-bond added $7.75 million dollars for three new high schools in Jefferson County, but before the construction of a new school began, tragedy struck in 1959 and Bear Creek High School caught fire. Classrooms were destroyed which forced students to learn in the gymnasium until the new school was constructed. The second iteration of Bear Creek High School was officially completed in 1962. Old Building

From 1962 through 2009, Bear Creek High School broadened its educational reach by adding vocational training in culinary arts, auto mechanics, and welding alongside athletic achievements such as championships in gymnastics, basketball, track, and cheerleading. In order to successfully teach all of Jeffco’s children, while facing the population pressures of classroom crowding, in 1976 Bear Creek High School implemented Concept 6, Jeffco’s version of a year-round school calendar. Students attended four out of six terms on a rotational basis as other district-wide learning measures faced criticism. Students attended 172 days of school, eight less than the state-mandate. In 1975, Jeffco articulation areas were partially redrawn and Bear Creek added Friendly Hills into its school borders, extending the reach of the school to Sheridan Boulevard. Building additions in 1968, 1980, 1987, and remodels in 1993 and 1996 allowed for expanded classroom capacity at Bear Creek High School, updating technological infrastructure to the now aging building. By 1982, Bear Creek ended its six year flirtation with year-round schooling in favor of a traditional school calendar, while averaging over 1,500 students total in four secondary grades.

Reflecting the population boom at the turn of the 21st century, the student population grew exponentially, putting pressure on Bear Creek High School. A series of fires in 2005, 2006, and 2008 reaped havoc on staff and students, bringing an end to the second iteration of Bear Creek High School.


In 2004, Jefferson County Public Schools R-1 passed a bond that granted $36 million dollars for the new building construction of a modern, state of the art Bear Creek High School. Constructed on the site of the original Montana School, this third reincarnation is now approaching its 100th anniversary in 2023. Leading Jeffco Schools in the implementation of unique academic programs including Project Lead the Way, National History Day, Senior Field Studies, and Biomedical Science, Bear Creek High School still stands as a home for all of its proud Bears, past, present, and future.


The new Bear Creek High School was designed to hold up to 2000 students and to support all of the varied talents and interests of our Bears

Visual and performing arts classrooms are housed in the south wing of the building. This includes dedicated vocal and instrumental rooms, a 564-seat auditorium, and three art studios fully equipped to support digital art, ceramics, jewelry and photography classes

We also have a lecture hall, two gymnasiums, a state-of-the-art weight room, a custom artificial turf football field, two multipurpose fields, baseball and softball diamonds and four tennis courts to support our physical education and athletic programs. Additionally, each of our 65 classrooms is equipped with state-of-the-art technology to support daily learning and as a 1 to 1 school, every student that attends Bear Creek is provided with a Chromebook. 

Our incredible library houses over 18,000 volumes and provides students with a comfortable place to study and access online databases and research for classes. Students can also head there for technological support 

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