Taos Charter School was started by a group of parents and teachers in 1999 that wanted a K-8 school with rigorous academics in a positive social environment. The school set up shop on two campuses. K-4 students were housed in an old adobe hacienda-style house. Rooms were awkwardly shaped, and dirt dropped out of latilla ceilings. The building had inadequate heating and plumbing, and no parking. The 5-8 campus was 12 miles away in an old WPA adobe schoolhouse.
Parents and teachers worked together to improve the school’s facilities. There was weekend after weekend of workdays, when volunteer crews cleaned filthy classrooms, removed graffiti from the walls, weed-whacked, painted, and fixed plumbing. There were a thousand and one details to be worked out before the school could be truly functional, such as establishing bus schedules, providing school lunches, and creating a workable requisitions policy. There were countless staff meetings, and meetings of the Governing Council often stretched into the night. It was difficult for the director to manage two separate campuses, difficult for some parents to transport multiple children to both schools, and difficult for the staff to develop a coherent curriculum. But in spite of the challenges, it was also an exciting, wide-open time where nothing was set, experiments were possible. Through a process characterized by site-based management and consensus building, the staff tried out many new ideas; they rejected some, but retained many.
By its second year of operation, Taos Charter School had settled down with a highly competent director and many outstanding staff members. The first priority was establishing a safe, cohesive campus. Working with our local legislator and governor, the school was awarded 2.4 million dollars for a new school which would house all the students. After five and a half years of putting up with substandard buildings and exorbitant rents, we moved into our brand-new campus in 2006. It was right after Spring break. Once again, parents, staff and students rallied for the massive effort of moving every desk, book, map and teaching manipulative from the old school buildings to the new one. Through the resourcefulness of the teachers, scarcely a day of instruction was lost during the move.
Through persistent cost cutting, the project turned out to be one of the most cost effective school buildings in the state. In 2008 the school was able to help pass a bond issue benefiting all district schools; as a result, Taos Charter built a gym and cafeteria. Our school is unusual in that we offer daily PE classes to every grade; because we believe that for students to excel academically they must be physically fit. For ten years, our tireless PE teacher conducted his classes outside in all kinds of weather. School lunches were served in an extra classroom across the hall from the office. With the new gym we have more space for performances, such as theater, literary events and concerts.