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The Future is Bright, As a New Centennial High School is On the Way

Honored guests turn dirt at the groundbreaking ceremony for Centennial

A century-and-a-half ago, Centennial High School started out as a 16 x 20-foot structure at 421 North Santa Fe Avenue in what is now Downtown Pueblo.

Six years later, a larger adobe building went up at Eleventh and Court Streets on the site of what is now the Pueblo School District 60 Administration Building. Originally called The High School of District One, or Pueblo High School, the school became known as “The Centennial” in recognition of Colorado’s designation as "The Centennial State” following its joining of the Union in 1876.

Then, in 1972, a new Centennial – excitingly heralded as state-of-the-art – was built on Mountainview Drive. Since that time, the school has educated tens of thousands of Bulldogs.

Now, the next chapter in Centennial High School’s tradition-rich history is being written as ground was broken for what, in a few short years, will become the fourth incarnation of Centennial: a sleek, state-of-the-art two-story school with auxiliary gymnasium, auditorium, air conditioning and a wealth of additional features designed to enhance the educational experience.

Financed by 2019’s voter-approved $218 million bond, the new school will be constructed on an expansive playing field located northwest of the current building.

There, on a Tuesday morning accurately described by Centennial Principal Dave Craddock as “chilly but exciting,” a ceremonial ground-breaking served as a triumphant testimony to the power of persistence, resilience and, above all, teamwork. 

The historical turns of dirt by dignitaries that included Superintendent Charlotte Macaluso, D60 board representatives, Principal Craddock, and Centennial students and alumni capped an arduous journey made possible only through the committed efforts of a wide-ranging team and the willingness of a Pueblo community to approve the district’s vision.  A Bulldog student holds up a "Thank You Pueblo" sign in the crowd of people at the groundbreaking

Fittingly, Tuesday’s ceremony was filled with accolades and warm thanks for all who made the moment possible: adult and student stakeholders who participated in the process and continue to do so; district leadership; past and current D60 board members; and the taxpaying voters of the City of Pueblo.

A gallery of more than 50 that included Mayor Nick Gradisar and city councilmen; members of the architectural and construction teams; Citizens Bond Advisory Committee volunteers; and representatives from all of the district’s high schools were on hand for the momentous occasion.

Superintendent Macaluso, who guided the district through the sometimes turbulent process en route to the successful passage of the bond, recapped that journey in her address.

“As was the case from the start of the master plan and facilities assessment process, a vision-driven unified effort – and a strong one at that – would be needed if a bond was to be passed,” the superintendent told those assembled. “And once again, the Pueblo School District 60 community rallied together as one, putting aside any potential differences – and making compromises when needed – in favor of a brighter and more stable future for our most valued asset: the children we educate and the staff who does this most important work.

“A vigorous campaign to see the bond passed involved the heroic efforts of many, from our esteemed alumni groups to high school seniors to civic leaders: all eager to see the district, and in turn the community as a whole, flourish in the coming decades. And the taxpaying public, gratefully, felt the same way, as our $218 million bond passed with flying colors: a testament to the power of a unified vision as well as the community’s desire to see public education flourish in the decades to come.”

Despite the unwelcome arrival of a global pandemic, the bond program continued without interruption, thanks in large part to the efforts of Chief Financial Officer David Horner and Bob Lawson, Executive Director of Facilities and Construction Management.

“Once again, the Pueblo community refused to let this latest obstacle – a history-making one at that – derail an endeavor so many had worked so hard to bring to fruition,” Superintendent Macaluso noted. “I am very proud to say that even in the face of a global pandemic, and all the uncertainty that accompanied it, we are here today, on schedule, to break ground on a new high school. 

“For the first time in half a century, District 60 will welcome not one but two new, state-of-the-art, energy-efficient high school buildings that will provide our students with a safe and welcoming environment and tremendously increase the educational and extra-curricular opportunities for all.”

Board President, Taylor Voss speaks to the audience from a podium Taylor Voss, who serves as President of the D60 Board of Education, praised the collaboration that ultimately led to Tuesday’s ground-breaking.

“This is a moment many years, and many long hours, in the making: the end result of a collaborative effort that saw a District 60 Board of Education courageous enough to place Ballot Measure 4A on the ballot; an issues committee dedicated enough to vigorously campaign for its passage, and finally, a citizenry of Pueblo with enough belief in our mission, and enough hope for our future, to pass 4A,” President Voss said.

He then turned his attention to past and present board members for their role in adding a new and exciting chapter to the district’s long and successful legacy.

“The one thing I’ve always respected the most about both the past and present Board is that every single Board member serves for the right reason,” he said. “We all truly care about the kids in our district and we share a passion for bettering their lives through education. 

“From the standing Board, to those who were serving when the master planning process was just getting started, the effort and dedication committed to this endeavor has been nothing short of heroic.”

Principal Craddock, in attendance with a host of Centennial educators, administrators and students, first praised the trust of the taxpayers who voted in favor of the bond.

“Your support and commitment are truly an example of what it means to be ‘Pueblo Proud,’” he said before encouraging attendees to offer the community a round of applause.

With teaching practices already being adapted, Principal Craddock pledged that the state-of-the-art school will be greeted by state-of-the-art education delivered by a dedicated staff.

“This is an exciting day for our students, for the legacy of Centennial, and for all of Pueblo,” Principal Craddock added. “We thank you all for being here to celebrate with us and we hope to see you again, in two years, when we enter the new building.

“As we’ve been saying all year: the future looks bright at Centennial High School.” A Centennial student takes a photo of all four mascots at the groundbreaking

Dalton Sprouse, the district’s Director of Communication, reminded the gallery that Tuesday’s ground-breaking was but the start of new school construction funded through the bond program.

“We are turning a new corner,” Mr. Sprouse noted. “We’re not talking about just changing light bulbs, or putting a new layer of paint on our buildings. We’re talking about five state-of-the-art learning facilities that will benefit our students, and benefit our community, in the form of millions and millions of dollars we’re investing right back into Pueblo.”

With Pueblo-based H.W. Houston Construction serving as project contractor, as much as 80 percent of the subcontracting work has been awarded to Pueblo-based businesses.

On hand Tuesday was Centennial graduate Maya Maes-Johnson, granddaughter of D60 Board Member Judge Dennis Maes, who played an active role in both the formulation of the bond question and its passage.

“This is such a big deal,” said Ms. Maes-Johnson, a Hurliman Scholar currently attending Colorado School of Mines. “Being part of the stakeholder committees at the start of the process, I don’t think we could have imagined that five schools would come from this. It’s amazing, and I’m very thankful to everyone who was a part of it.”

One of the future Bulldogs who will walk the halls of the new Centennial is Ms. Maes-Johnson’s younger sister.

“I’m very excited for her,” Ms. Maes-Johnson said. “My message to her and the future Bulldogs is ‘carry on the tradition,’ because it’s going to be very interesting to be part of that new school.”