Strategic Plan Update: Mission-driven Operations

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Editor’s Note: Today’s post is the sixth in a series of updates in which we concentrate on segments of Eagle Rock School’s strategic plan, known as Vision 2020. Entitled “Mission-driven Operations,” this sixth of the plan’s seven domains that we’re reporting on today explores efforts to attend to our physical location — the Eagle Rock Campus — in Estes Park, Colo. This post, authored by head of school Jeff Liddle, describes the original conception and construction of our campus in the early 1990s, what has been improved to date, and future projects that are foreseen under our master plan. For an overview of the entire strategic plan, please see News From The Rock: Vision 2020.

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Strategic Plan Update: Mission-driven Operations

By Jeff Liddle, head of School

Environmental psychologists describe sense of place as the specific experience of a specific person in a specific environment. Feelings of joy while walking through a mountain community, or feelings of gratitude while watching students learn and play are two examples that come to mind. Along the same lines, a spirit of space is what gives some locales a particular feel or personality, like a childhood home or a favorite backcountry campsite.

With the Eagle Rock School & Professional Development Center, the American Honda Co. had a vision of an expansive campus situated in a mountainside setting, centered around a lodge, where meals are shared, classes are taught, and a highly specific mission is pursued in a thriving atmosphere where up to 100 students and 30 staff members reside.


Once our 640-acre campus was acquired, the master plan called for an accessible, site-integrated, walkable, environmentally friendly community. This was accomplished by developing a minimum of physical structures, thus maximizing the pristine setting. It meant installing passive solar systems, photovoltaics and high insulation. Material selection was based on simplicity and the ability for human structures to blend in with their natural surroundings.

The result was a campus that, to this day, provides a true sense of place and spirit of space. Students enjoy the freedom of living in a secure environment and experience a real connection to nature on a daily basis, while staff feels as though there’s no better environment within which to work.

That being said, we’re happy to report out today on the sixth domain of our strategic plan, which focuses on the health and growth of our campus facilities. More precisely, our sixth domain — Mission-driven Operations — is described thusly:

Resource decisions will be linked to results that reflect mission success at the school and nationally. Develop and maintain a practical facility that supports the achievement of the Eagle Rock mission.

Note the words “practical facility” in the description. That means updating our campus with an emphasis on quality and conservative spending.

Last year, Eagle Rock’s original architectural team — Jeff Winston from MIG and David Barrett of Barrett Studios — spent three days on campus reviewing the existing infrastructure and gathering information to determine what opportunities and constraints exist related to an updated campus master plan.

The planning process focused on three major categories:

Category One: Maintaining an aging facility

The original groundbreaking ceremonies for Eagle Rock School took place in September of 1992 and the first students arrived on campus a year later. The following two dozen years took a toll on the facilities, what with high-altitude weather, a downturn in the economy that affected repairs, and structures taking a beating from constant use.

Eagle Rock School Floor Replacement

With our focus on mission-driven operations, we continue with the shift of our focus from managing a brand new campus to keeping up with aging facilities. That doesn’t mean, however, that there was a 24-year void in repairs and projects.

In fact, since the kickoff of the strategic planning process in 2015, we have completed the following major projects:

  • Placed fresh shingles on 22 roofs and a new wooden roof deck on the backside of the Professional Development Center
  • Replaced the Schoolhouse floor
  • Replaced the Science Building floor
  • Installed a Pozloc fire suppression system (this has been a multi-year, million-dollar project, beginning in 2008 — we have completed all but the Human Performance Center gym and one staff house)
  • Replaced boilers in three student houses, with a fourth boiler replacement set for the upcoming Winter break
  • Numerous painting and carpeting projects
  • Replaced the dojo mats with a spring floor and new mats

Eagle Rock School Roof Replacement Project

Category Two: Updating and retrofitting existing buildings

While our priority in the first phase of building has been maintaining the aging facility, we have completed one “retrofit” project. We added a bedroom to both floors of our faculty house duplex, which currently houses several staff members.

Eagle Rock School staff housing construction project.

Going forward, we’ll be using a design thinking mindset and processes to envision innovative and flexible living and learning spaces that truly position Eagle Rock for the needs of our future students.

Category Three: Determining additional construction needs

Due to our focus on upgrading the existing facility, we have not yet started any new construction projects. However, near the top of our priority list is more faculty housing. That’s because housing costs in the Estes Park area have been on the climb with the recent recovery, and apartments and rental units in the area are swiftly becoming out of reach for our staff members

A just-released Estes Park Area Housing Needs Assessment says workforce housing has become a major concern in the Estes Park area, with a shortage of such units compounding higher rental costs. In fact, the lack of such facilities has become a bigger issue than affordability. In addition to maintaining a keen awareness to the shortage of accessible housing, we are working hard on building out our residential life experience for students. This increased focus will benefit from more staff living on campus, which in turn supports that initiative.

Because of this situation, we are looking into new construction to house our instructors and staff members when they arrive on campus — especially because commuting to our remote area is not a reasonable option.

Check back in a month or so for an update on the seventh and final domain of our strategic plan — Communications Strategy. In the meantime, catch up on our progress elsewhere by reading any of the following Vision 2020-related updates:

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Jeff_Liddle_HeadshotAbout the Author: Jeff Liddle is the head of school at the Eagle Rock School and Professional Development Center — a nationally recognized, tuition-free residential high school in Estes Park, Colo. The school offers a second chance to students who have not been able to succeed in a traditional high school setting, and a professional development center that supports high schools nationally in re-engaging youth in their own education. As head of school, Jeff is responsible for leading Eagle Rock’s school community and its leadership team; interfacing with the organization’s board of directors; and overseeing the vision and financial health of the organization.

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