Long View High School sits high atop a hill overlooking the Denver metro area, with views of the Front Range. This long view is a metaphor for the school in two ways: life preparation and safety.
Safety and Community
Many of the school’s students come from situations where they felt bullied, harassed, and discriminated against. A significant portion has been physically, sexually, or verbally abused; others have suffered a traumatic brain injury. It is also common for the school’s students to have experienced the death of someone close to them earlier than life expectancy, often through violent means.
It is particularly important that these students see their school as an educational safe haven. The school is thus grounded in the premise that that no one can learn effectively in an environment of fear. So, just as medieval castles were elevated in order to provide a long view and thus protection from approaching enemies, the school emphasizes safety, community and mutual support.
With just 60 students and four teachers, and serving just grades 10-12, it is the smallest public school in the Denver metro area. The size of the school is designed to foster a family-like atmosphere where genuine interactions can happen between and among all school members throughout each day. Through group activities, experimentation, discussions, videos, classes, hikes and games, the Long View community has grown and thrived over its 21-year history. The school also makes great use of its larger community. The lead teacher told us that Long View has entertained, and been entertained by, over 2000 guest speakers over its 21 years, has averaged 1.25 field trips per week, and has engaged in numerous community service projects.
The school’s safety is nicely linked to its concept of community; and this sense of community, with newly found individual strength, can then turn outward. Students have engaged in community service projects, working at community food banks, homeless shelters, veterans programs, Rotary and Optimists Clubs, collecting clothes for other teens in need, and harvesting and weeding at a local urban farm dedicated to sustainable agricultural practices. To supplement their existing structures, the students are currently constructing an outdoor classroom.
All of this reflects the school’s core goals: being a community, learning from the larger community, and contributing to that community.
The school’s motto is “Learn to Love to Learn,” with the goal being to use the students’ time at the school to create the foundation for their growth throughout life. This is the learning element of the focus on community.
The mission of Long View High School is to provide a classroom-based, personalized education that takes the long view of each student’s future, stressing learning over simple credit recovery. Long View engages the students with a curriculum that is rigorous, relevant, varied, and enjoyable. While serving an “alternative school” role, in that the school is sought out by students struggling with life or academics, the approach is one of enrichment, not salvage.
Non-traditional lessons help students integrate classroom learning with self-learning, and then with the grandness of the world around them. The World Religions class visits 20 different places of worship, including mosques, synagogues, cathedrals, churches, centers, and the largest Buddhist stupa in the western hemisphere. The “Death and Dreams” class visits a Sleep Disorder Clinic, a mortuary, a hospice, and the oldest cemetery in Colorado. The Energy class visits facilities powered by solar, wind, geothermal, coal, natural gas, and hydroelectric power, as well as visiting a nuclear reactor, a converted nuclear reactor, and the National Renewable Energy Lab. The Robotics team operates at a state and regional level, emphasizing teamwork and cooperation in friendly competition. Next Labor Day, Long View Film Studies students will be participating in the Telluride Film Festival, one of two schools in the nation to be chosen to participate. Long View students have also conversed over the years with 11 Nobel Peace Prize laureates, often while sharing a meal with them.
The school uses multi-age grouping and relies heavily on informal assessments to determine students’ academic needs and to modify instruction to continually reach, challenge and support students. Again, the strong community and the strong bond between students and their teachers make this effective.
The long view, and the sense of community, doesn’t end at graduation. Long View maintains contact with the overwhelming majority of its graduates not because it is mandated, but because it is desired—it’s something maintained by the students. Life’s struggles do not end at graduation, and neither do the relationships forged over 24 – 36 months, so the school community remains a safe harbor. In turn, graduates from five or ten or fifteen years ago speak (in the class taken by all new students, about how to be successful at the school) about their experiences “sitting in that chair,” and how Long View prepared them for their life after high school.