Christian K-12 school moves to Westside

       A K-12 private Christian school has relocated to the Westside.

A group of upper-level students at the K-12 University School of Colorado Springs enjoy a photographer's interruption while taking a test inside USCS' Butler Hall at 2713 W. Cucharras St. They are, from front to back: (left) Maddy Rankin, Johnny Jones, Ryan Novick and Molly Miller; (middle) Victoria Benitez, Tyler Firlit and Tava Reese; and (right) Aaron Leedom and Daniel Herring.
Westside Pioneer photo

       The University School of Colorado Springs (USCS) moved in January into buildings off West Cucharras and 27th streets that had previously been used for many years by the Wesleyan Methodists' People's Bible College.
       About 100 students are enrolled, with grades K-6 in the two-floor, 2,400-square-foot, building at 115 S. 27th Street and 7-12 (plus administration office) in the three-floor, 6,800-square-foot building at 2713 W. Cucharras. Both were built just over a half-century ago.
       The “university” in the name reflects the school plan for a higher- education style of learning - in which students only attend classes two or three days a week but do assignments in between. Parents (especially of elementary-age children) are expected to help them keep up with their studies, explained John Humphrey, chairman of the school's governing board, and Jeff Cooper, school administrator.
       Both men are also founders of the school. USCS started in the fall of 2006, originally in rented space in the Heart of the Springs Church in northeast Colorado Springs. “In addition to providing a quality education, at USCS we want our students to develop a passion for worship, strong character qualities and leadership skills,” reads a description on the school website, “To that end, we offer opportunities for mission trips and community service and plenty of outdoor adventures.”
       The school follows a school year similar to public school, with summers off. Annual tuition for elementary grades is $2,350 a year; for secondary grades, it's between $3,000 and $4,000 (because at that level, the cost is figured on a per-class basis, according to Cooper).
       A successful businessman - his Coleson Foods serves United State military commissaries worldwide - Humphrey initially envisioned the People's Bible College properties as his company headquarters (then on Garden of the Gods Road). But the opportunity to give the school its own home overrode the need for commercial space.
       Humphrey has since relocated Coleson (just its offices - the food aspects occur in other cities or through vendors) in another part of the Westside, at 915 S. Eighth St. “This is such a nice part of town,” he commented.
       In a historical nod, he has used the original Bible College names, preceded by “Cucharras,” for the limited liability corporations (LLCs) that were created to define ownership of each property piece. For example, the building for the elementary grades is named Cucharras Emmanuel, while that for the upper grades is Cucharras Butler.
       The move to the Westside had a downside at first: “smash-and-grab” thievery of some materials during the initial renovations on the Butler building. But Humphrey sought out someone who was believed to have connections with the thieves, agreed to give them certain items the school didn't need, and the thefts ended, he recounted.
       Although Humphrey described Butler and Emmanuel as structurally sound, USCS staff and volunteers worked hard for two months sprucing them up, installing modern wiring and security systems and then undergoing the necessary city inspections. Butler needed the most work, with half of its top floor needing to be remodeled from a dormitory into classrooms.
       One of the volunteers was Jon Puckett, 17, a senior at USCS who has been a student since the school's inception. After helping paint some of the rooms, “I feel like I'm part of it,” he said.
       In its educational approach, USCS follows the lead of the National Association of University Model Schools (NAUMS). NAUMS supports the development of schools that emphasize high academics, love of God above all else and which “serve the nation's families as a 'real and lasting' new alternative in education,” according to a NAUMS document.
       Certification by NAUMS as a university model, which also requires meeting state standards, is under way for USCS; it would add the school to the 39 in the country that are NAUMS-certified at this time, Humphrey said.
       The school is growing, with a capacity for 200 students, Humphrey said. The only advertising so far has been “word of mouth,” he added. “A lot of people don't realize there is a Christian school here now.”
       USCS also leases space to Youth with a Mission (YWAM), an international, interdenominational, non-profit Christian missionary organization. YWAM uses the Cucharras Stonehouse building at 2626 W. Cucharras St. for its ministry and half of Butler's top floor (the half that still has dorm rooms) for traveling visitors.
       Puckett had attended an area charter school from the second through ninth grades, but feels as if he didn't start to thrive until he transferred to USCS. “I'm getting better grades and understanding the materials,” said Puckett, who is planning on a music major in college. Another plus: “The teachers are more like friends than enemies.”
       Amy Guest is a parent who has been with the school since it started. Her older son attended USCS for his senior high school year. And her twins (boy and girl) are now in ninth grade. “I was homeschooling the older one, but he was taking harder classes,” she said. “It was nice to tap him into the math and science labs.”
       The Christian aspect also appealed to her. “It's something that's very important to me,” Guest said. “It's part of why I was homeschooling.”

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