We honor and acknowledge that we are on the traditional territories and ancestral homelands of the Tséstho'e (Cheyenne) and Núu-agha-tʉvʉ-pʉ̱ (Ute) people. We recognize the Indigenous peoples as original stewards of this land and all the relatives within it. We pay our respect to them and give thanks to all Tribal Nations and the ancestors of this place.

Early History

Shortly after the organization of Jefferson Territory into counties, including Jefferson County, residents of the area around present-day Conifer filed 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.

Clipping from page 12 of the June 8, 1961 Canyon Courier of the first West Jefferson School graduating class.

The first graduating class from West Jefferson School had 25 students in their graduation exercise on June 1, 1961: Mary Asping, Bob Epling, Nancy Gaasch, Gay Gann, Kay German, Diana Graham, Linda Hamilton, Melode Haverland, Ronnie Hughes, Lonnie Karn, Joan Kerr, Linda Knight, Sheryl Light, Jeanne Lonsinger, Larry Mizner, Bill Ostenberg, Louise Patterson,  Pat Russell, David Simons, Dan Smith, Shirley Stansbery, Annette Swift, Darlene Walker,  Delbert Walker, and Randy Wiegand.

Conifer's 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 West Jefferson School (now 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.) 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; it is primarily used for our sixth grade classrooms.

West Jefferson Middle School

The school transitioned to a middle school, serving students in grades 6 through 8, in 1996. 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 provided for landscaping and field improvements, and updates to many systems (security, electrical, HVAC, plumbing) and finishes within the building.

West Jefferson Middle School will celebrate fifty years of educating Conifer's students during the 2023-2024 school year.

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.

Canyon Courier articles from 1958-1964, accessed via the Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection:

  • "West Jefferson School dedicates addition", February 25, 1960
  • "Editorially Speaking: $1,229,000 for Evergreen, Indian Hills, and West Jefferson Schools", April 21, 1960
  • "A first for West Jefferson...", June 8, 1961 
  • "Bids opened for on West Jeff school" July 26, 1962

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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