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Garfield County School District No. 16 is located in Western Colorado, 45 minutes east of Grand Junction,  45 minutes west of Glenwood Springs, and approximately 200 miles west of Denver along I-70. Located in the Colorado River Valley, Garfield 16 is nestled between the Rocky Mountains and the mesas. We serve approximately 1200 students from the communities of Parachute and Battlement Mesa. Our philosophy about education is that it is the singular opportunity we can provide every student so that he/she can be equipped with the knowledge and skills needed to be successful in the world. We believe that every student is a unique learner, and we strive to meet each student's needs. We also believe that the school community can support our students' growth in more than just academics. Student leadership and service to the community is embedded within each school's community, and we are creating opportunities for greater family involvement in education.

Our teachers benefit from a highly competitive salary schedule for the region. We support each teacher's professional growth by fully funding masters degree programs. Many teachers choose to live in the community; however, there are teachers who make their homes in nearby communities. Within an hour of the school district, people can enjoy various outdoor pursuits such as hiking, fishing, mountain biking, rock climbing, camping, four-wheeling, backpacking, hunting, river rafting, kayaking, golf, and skiing. Following the I-70 corridor to the east, Garfield 16 is 45 minutes to Glenwood Springs, an hour and a half to Vail, and three hours to Denver. To the west, Garfield 16 is 30 minutes to Palisade wine country and two hours to Moab.

History of the Area

The Town of Parachute is just north of the Colorado River along I-70. It sits at the confluence of the Colorado River and the 14.7-mile-long Parachute Creek tributary to the north. The Ute people originally called this creek Pahchouc with early settlers mispronouncing the word as parachute. The Town of Parachute was founded by J.B. Hurlburt in 1883. On April 1, 1908, the town was incorporated as Grand Valley, Colorado. In 1986, the town name was changed back to Parachute. 

In the early 1900s, western Garfield County was primarily an agriculturally based economy and the population was stable, only increasing and decreased based on new families moving to the area or moving away. 

The 1920s added some population to the area with the Union Carbide Vanadium Mill being put into operation in Rifle, Colorado. After World War II (1945) an increase in population was triggered by the construction and operation of the Anvil Points Oil Shale Research and Development Center and Oil Shale Mile between Rulison and Webster Hill (the eastern end of the school district) and construction and operation of the Union Oil of California Oil Shale Research Facility and Mine at the upper end of Parachute Creek. Both Anvil Points and Union Oil ceased operations around 1956 causing a significant decrease in school enrollment. In 1964, the Anvil Points Oil Shale Research Center was put back into operation and TOSCO build an Oil Shale Research Facility and Mine on West Middle Fork of Parachute Creek. These two operations increased the enrollment of Garfield County School District 16 until 1967, when both ceased operation causing a decrease in enrollment. 

In 1972, Occidental Oil Company started and Oil Shale research program in Debeque, CO and TOSCO reopened their Oil Shale Plant on Parachute Creek, both causing an increase in school enrollment. In 1973, Paraho Development Corporation started operations at the Anvil Points Oil Shale Research Center and Mile, also increasing enrollment. School enrollment was stable throughout the 1970s. 

In 1980, Exxon joined with TOSCO to form Colony Oil Shale and build a commercial oil shale plant and mine on Parachute Creek and the population boomed. The community of Battlement Mesa is on the south side of the Colorado River and the older town of Parachute. Battlement Mesa was developed by Exxon, the Colony Oil Shale and Union of Oil of California Oil Shale projects as a residential community for their workers and their families. Bea Underwood Elementary and St. John Middle School were both build without bond issues at this time, being paid for by the oil companies as part of their permitting requirements for their respective projects. 

In 1982, when crude oil prices dropped substantially, Exxon stopped the construction on the Colony Project and laid off some 2,100 employees. During 1981, Union Oil of California started construction on its commercial oil shale project on Parachute Creek, helping to stabilize and increase school enrollment and the construction of St. John Middle School. 

With the Union Oil Company oil shale project construction and then operation and the start of Natural Gas production in the district boundaries By Barrett Resources, Williams Energy, and EnCanna, the school population stayed stable and grew through 1990. 

In 1991, Union Oil shut down their commercial oil shale operation on Parachute Creek, causing a decrease in enrollment. After Union Oil shut down, the population decreased, but by 1995, the increase of Natural Gas production caused an increase in population and school enrollment. The enrollment was stable until 2002 and increased with the construction and operations of the American Soda sodium minerals plan on Parachute Creek. School enrollment remained stable through 2007, until increases in pricing and demand for natural gas in 2008 saw another population growth. That growth from energy production by Terra E&P and Caerus Oil and Gas creating a doubling in school enrollment between 2007 and 2009, and along with the overall population growth of Garfield County, there was a steady to slight upward trend in school population through 2014, then a drop in enrollment from 2015 through 2017. 2018 and 2019 enrollment were back up to 2014 levels, with 2020 peaking at the highest level of enrollment ever, based on graduating seniors' numbers. 

The school district has always been, and currently is, very dependent on the utilization of natural resources (agriculture, natural gas, oil shale, and sodium minerals) and fluctuations in the production of these resources is what has most affected student enrollment and financial resources of the School District since its inception. 

While Battlement Mesa was originally developed to accommodate oil exploration, the community has transitioned into a group of various subdivisions catering to various professions, families, and retirees. 

History of the Schools

Elementary schools (grades 1 through 8) were built in the Town of Parachute in 1890, Parachute Creek in 1895 (District no. 11, upper Granlee School, lower Bookcliff School), Battlement Mesa in 1889, rebuilt in 1897 (district no. 18, changed to no. 45 in the 1920s, then consolidated into District 16 in 1947), Wallace Creek in 1904 (District no. 18), and Morrisania Mesa in 1917. 

The first High School was built in the Town of Grand Valley, District 16, in 1911, and the area grade schools were consolidated into District 16. The location of the school district was in Garfield County, town of Grand Valley, Colorado, and therefore named Garfield County School District #16 to include Grand Valley High School, Grand Valley Middle School, and Grand Valley Elementary School. The district boundaries are from Webster Hill to the east and the Garfield/Mesa County line to the west. 

In 1937, the first combination of a high school and elementary school with a gymnasium was built in Grand Valley. The symmetrical brick structure with the offices and gymnasium in the center and wings on either side, with one wing containing the high school classrooms and the other containing a lunchroom, shop, and elementary classrooms. In 1965, a bond issue was passed for the addition of three new elementary classrooms added onto the east en of the building, a total revamping of the rest of the building to increase the number of high school rooms and the addition of a new gymnasium on the west end of the high school wing. This building is the current home of the Grand Valley Center for Family Learning.

Bea Underwood Elementary School (named for long-time Grand Valley School teacher Bea Underwood) was built in 1982. 

L.W. St John Middle School (named for Lawrence St. John, a Grand Valley High School graduate who served for many years and was Superintendent of Grand Valley schools at the time the middle school was built) was built in 1983. The current Grand Valley Middle School was built in 2009 and L.S. St. John is now used for the District Administration offices. 

The current Grand Valley High School was built in 2002. 


Mr. Ed Cooley