Tag: Children

D-51 employee raises a red flag about the way D-51 conducts lockdown drills compared to other school districts

A highly experienced School District 51 employee who came here from the front range with over 20 years experience in conducting lockdown drills in other school districts is raising red flags about the way D-51 conducts its lockdown drills, and the trauma it is causing students. The employee describes a heartbreaking experience during a lockdown drill with a room full of kindergarteners during the 2023-2024 school year and the lasting  effects it had on students. The employee has brought the problem up with school counselors, the D-51 School Board and Tim Leon, Director of Safety and Security for District 51, and even proposed different ways to conduct these drills that are used in other school districts that don’t traumatize students the way D-51’s drills do, and offered research by the National Association of School Psychologists on how to mitigate the negative psychological effects that lockdown drills have on young kids, but the employee’s urgings have been ignored at every turn.

D-51 employees share views on the proposed closure of Fruita 8/9 public school

D-51 employees have shared their views with AnneLandmanBlog anonymously, due to fears of retribution by the District.

This message was sent to AnneLandmanBlog by a School District-51 employee who asked that I paraphrase their message rather than quote them verbatim, to help keep them anonymous. The employee fears potential backlash by the District for weighing in publicly on the way Superintendent Brian Hill is proposing to close the Fruita 8/9 public school.

Here is the message:

CU Anschutz environmental toxicologist: Ascent Classical Academy’s lead remediation will have to meet tighter EPA standard of 3 micrograms/sq. ft. for floors, instead of the current standard of 10 mcg/sq. ft.

The former Rocky Mountain Gun Club building at 545 31 Road, where Ascent Classical Academy plans to open a new charter school eventually, after missing its initially-proposed September 5 date for occupancy. The gun club signs were still on the building as of early August.

Michael Kosnett, M.D., M.P.H., at CU Anschutz School of Public Health in Aurora, CO, an expert in medical toxicology, occupational and environmental health who specializes in occupational and environmental toxicology of heavy metals, including lead, weighed in about the type of post-remediation lead testing that should be used at the Ascent Classical Academy building (swipe or bulk testing), and what the residual lead levels are allowed to be in this situation.

Lead is a highly poisonous element that, according to UNICEF, is responsible for 1.5% of global deaths. Children are particularly susceptible to its effects.

CDPHE now says Vertex used an approved test for lead at the Ascent Classical Academy building; lead levels still in question

How much lead exposure does it take to poison a child? This much.

AnneLandmanBlog received the following email from Bradley Turpin, Milk and Institutions Program Manager in CDPHE’s Division of Environmental Health and Sustainability saying the company that performed the post-remediation testing for lead at the new Ascent Classical Academy building (the old Rocky Mountain Gun Club at 545 31 Road) did in fact use a test that they are allowed to use in this instance. He apologized for the confusion caused by their former statement that bulk testing would be appropriate in this situation. The official did not comment on the current lead levels in the building, but CDPHE does appear to be involved in overseeing the remediation.

Ascent Classical Academy used the wrong kind of post-remediation lead testing in the Rocky Mountain Gun Club building, according to CDPHE

How lead is dispersed at shooting ranges (Georgia Dept. of Public Health/Seattle Times)

The Vertex Company LLC of Denver, which Ascent Classical Academy hired to test the old Rocky Mountain Gun Club building for lead contamination after the building was remediated, did the wrong kind of testing, says an specialist with Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE).

Caren Johannes of CDPHE’s Hazardous Materials and Waste Management Division Compliance Unit, who oversees closed shooting ranges, looked over online remediation report (pdf) that Ascent posted its website on August 11, 2023, and concluded that the Vertex Company did the wrong kind of testing for lead in the building, so their results will not be valid.

Ascent Classical Academy’s lead remediation report shows 30 of 66 areas tested in their new school do not meet HUD requirements

How much lead exposure does it take to poison a child? This much. And so far no one has  guaranteed there isn’t this much lead remaining in the old Rocky Mountain Gun Club building, which is being repurposed to serve as Ascent Classical Academy’s new charter school in Grand Junction

Notice: Since this article was written, AnneLandmanBlog has found out from Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE)’s Hazardous Waste department expert in charge of dealing with closed firing ranges that Ascent contractor Vertex Companies of Denver utilized the wrong type of post-remediation testing technique for this facility, rendering the results in the report Ascent posted on August 11 invalid and essentially useless. Read more about it here.

The 8-page, post-lead remediation testing report that Ascent Classical Academy Grand Junction posted on its website August 11, 2023 (pdf) shows that 30 of the 66 sites tested for lead in the old Rocky Mountain Gun Club building at 545 31 Road, which is to serve as the new charter school, still have lead levels 5-23 times above HUD allowable limits.

And Ascent did not test the air inside the facility.

Derek Shuler, CEO of Ascent Classical Academies, in 2018 (Photo: YouTube)

The post-remediation testing was performed by the Vertex Company, which included a disclaimer in the report that essentially says it wasn’t feasible to test all areas of the building, so there may still be areas where lead dust levels exceed HUD limits.

Ascent Classical Academy still has not provided proof to the public that their new school building is lead-free

UPDATE as of 8/11/2023, 4:00 p.m.Ascent Classical Academy updated it’s blog today with a link to a report (pdf) provided by remediation project manager, the Vertex Company. The actual remediation was performed by Hudspeth Environmental Remediation Company based in Centennial, whose website says they specialize in asbestos and lead paint removal. According to the chart provided in the report, many areas remain 5 to 23 times above HUD’s recommended lead clearance cleanup standard of <10 µ/sq.ft. (less than 10 micrograms per square foot). Among these are the men’s bathroom on the first floor, which had 71 µ/sq.ft,  the floor of the first floor “men’s restroom in the tactical area,” with 83 µ/sq.ft., the former “Handgun range – floor in NE corner” at 68 µ/sq.ft., “Handgun range – floor in middle by west wall” at 57 µ/sq.ft., the “Handgun range – center of floor in room south of handgun range,” which had 130 µ/sq.ft., the “Handgun range – floor in SE corner” at 98 µ/sq.ft. and “Handgun range – floor in room south of range” with 230 µ/sq.ft.

The “Discussion” part of the report states,

“As it is not feasible to sample all areas of all surfaces, the wipe sampling strategy utilized by VERTEX does not provide for, nor ensure that all surfaces within a subject property undergo wipe sampling; thus, the possibility exists that lead-in-dust concentrations on surface locations not sampled during an assessment may be in excess of HUD and/or CDPHE Regulation 19 cleanup standards.”

Translation:” It’s not feasible to test the whole property, so there may be lead concentrations in places we didn’t check that may be in excess of HUD and CDPHE’s cleanup standards.”

Ascent does not yet have a Certificate of Occupancy for the building.


The Ascent Classical Academy charter school is planning to move into the old Rocky Mountain Gun Club building at 545 31 Road, which formerly served as an indoor shooting range for 7 years. The inside of the building is currently being rebuilt and their website says the first day of school will be Tuesday, September 5, 2023, but to date, Ascent still hasn’t provided the public with documentation from a government health authority that their building poses no threat of lead poisoning to occupants, and they appear to be withholding information on the remediation status of the building.  [See above update.]

Commissioner Janet Rowland takes credit for the contributions of fired Public Health Director Jeff Kuhr

A post on Janet Rowland’s “VoteJanetRowland” Facebook page promoting the child care center at the county’s new Clifton Campus community building. Jeff Kuhr was key to making the child care center in Clifton possible, but Rowland never mentioned his contributions. (Janet is the blonde in the hard had in the photos.)

Mesa County Commissioner Janet Rowland wasted no time in taking credit for the contributions towards improving childcare in Mesa County made by former Public Health Director Jeff Kuhr, whom Rowland recently pushed out through an expensive and vicious months-long campaign over a personnel disagreement.

On July 29, Rowland showed off the new Clifton Community Campus at 3270 D 1/2 Road to Governor Jared Polis, crowing that it was “designed to be a community hub featuring an early childhood education center…” without ever mentioning that Public Health Director Kuhr was the one who initiated the big push to expand child care in the county (pdf) and helped the County get funding to make the childcare center possible.

Colorado House Rep. Lauren Boebert trashes pin representing child massacred at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde

Advocates for Moms Demand Action, a gun violence prevention group, handed Congresswoman Lauren Boebert (R-CO) a pin on July 18 honoring 10-year old Maite Rodriguez, one of 19 children massacred in the Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24, 2022.

Maite’s body was so mangled by gunfire that she was only identifiable by her favorite pair of green Converse tennis shoes with the heart drawn over the right toe that she was wearing that day. Maite, her fellow students and teachers were killed with an AR-style rifle. (Click here for a demonstration of why AR-15 style rifles are so much more damaging to the body than other types of firearms.)

Boebert promptly walked to a trash can with the pin and flier explaining its significance and tossed it into the can, right in front of the people who had handed it to her.

Grand Mesa Little League president’s background raising concern

Photo from the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, Friday, April 26, 2002

Some people are expressing concern about the president of Grand Mesa Little League after finding out about an arrest in his background that involved sexually-tinged abuse of younger kids, and seeing worrisome comments about his behavior on social media.

Christopher Riley, who was formerly known as Christopher David Rasmussen, was arrested November 21, 2001, on charges of third degree assault and false imprisonment after he tied up a 14 year old boy at Grand Junction High School who had resisted Rasmussen’s attempts to videotape him nude. Rasmussen was also accused of filming additional students nude at the school earlier that month. Rasmussen’s name was made public in the Daily Sentinel at the time because he was 18 years old at the time of the incident.

Mesa County Commissioner Janet Rowland has used county agencies to advance her personal ideology and interfere in personnel decisions before

Board of Mesa County Commissioners. (L-R: Bobbie Daniel, Cody Davis and Janet Rowland). Photo: Mesa County

District Attorney Dan Rubinstein announced he’s closed the investigation into the Mesa County Commissioners’ allegations of financial wrongdoing by Mesa County Public Health Director Dr. Jeff Kuhr, saying,

“We lack sufficient evidence of anything criminal…” and “…[We] lack sufficient evidence that Mr. Kuhr was personally involved in, or personally directed, any level of reporting that would make him criminally culpable for material misstatements.”

With Janet Rowland at the helm, so far the Commissioners have spent $49,000 in taxpayer funds on a financial audit of Kuhr in an attempt to try find some reason to fire him, in addition digging up and spreading around negative personnel comments about Kuhr from as far back as 2011. So far, everything they’ve found, including a $219 alcohol purchase that has since been reimbursed, have fallen flat. Even four members of the Mesa County Board of Health have said nothing they’ve seen about Kuhr so far rises to the level of a fireable offense. Then they all resigned in protest after learning the Commissioners were going to fire them if they didn’t agree to fire Kuhr.

Ascent Classical Academy auctioning off fixtures from Rocky Mountain Gun Club

Ascent Classical Academy’s auction. There is no notification that these items were taken out of a lead-contaminated building

A classified ad in today’s Daily Sentinel gives notice that an auction is being held online to benefit the new Ascent Classical Academy charter school. All of the fixtures that were in the old Rocky Mountain Gun Club building, the building to be used to house the school, are being auctioned off to raise money for the school.

Since lead contamination is a well-known hazard at former shooting ranges due to the very fine lead dust thrown off by bullets when they are fired, the building is undergoing remediation for lead. All of the fixtures previously inside the building, including the HVAC system, cabinets, furniture, artwork, lumber and other items were also contaminated with lead.

Lead poisoning caused by exposure to lead can cause serious health problems, especially in young children.

New website up for the effort to recall D-51 School Board President Andrea Haitz

Click the image to go to the new website for the Andrea Haitz recall effort

The public can now keep track of the effort to recall School District 51’s Board President Andrea Haitz by going to SignForKids.com, where people can find out where to sign petitions, get trained in how to gather signatures, donate to the effort or volunteer to help. The organizers need to gather 15,000 valid signatures of registered voters within the next two months.

The website states the public’s grievances against Haitz:

  • Andrea Haitz was elected to the District 51 Board in 2021, promising transparency.

  • Instead, Haitz has turned local control of school dollars over to extremist organizations, turned fundamental parts of her job over to expensive lawyers, denied student pleas for mental health services, and used her office for family political gain.

  • The biggest decisions at District 51 are now being turned over to outside interests and fringe extremists who don’t represent Mesa County families.

District-51 fails to opt in to new statewide program offering free meals to all students

Chart provided by ChalkBeat.

On November 8, 2022, Colorado passed Proposition FF, a ballot measure to provide free meals to all public school students. The measure, called the Healthy School Meals for All Program, was referred to the ballot by the state Legislature and passed by a healthy margin of 57-43%. The measure generates funds by limiting state tax deductions for people earning over $300,000/year, and is set to raise more than $100 million/year. The program will reimburse participating school districts to provide free meals to all students and will provide grants for Districts to purchase local food. According to the Healthy School Meals for All FAQ guide, there is also an option for participating districts to provide wage increases or stipends to front-line staff who assist with the program.

Lead contamination a concern for new Ascent Classical Academy charter school, which plans to open in August at the former Rocky Mountain Gun Club building

 The former Rocky Mountain Gun Club building at 545 31 Road, where Ascent Classical Academy plans to open a new charter school this August. The sale of the building closed recently. It was listed for $7 million.
Ascent Classical Academy, a new charter school, plans to open in Grand Junction in August, 2023, in the building at 545 31 Road, that was formerly the Rocky Mountain Gun Club.
Parents contemplating sending their kids to this school should be concerned.
The building was used as an indoor shooting range for seven years, closing in 2021.
Lead contamination is a well-established problem at shooting ranges.


Derec Shuler, CEO of Ascent Classical Academies, in 2018 (Photo: YouTube)
Every time a bullet is fired, a puff of fine lead dust is emitted that gets onto floors, walls, countertops, door handles, the shooter’s clothing and, at indoor shooting ranges, into the ventilation system. Lead particles can be inhaled and ingested with food and drink. Elevated blood lead levels have repeatedly been found in recreational shooters who visit shooting ranges regularly, as well as employees of these ranges. Being exposed to lead contamination on an ongoing basis can have dire health effects. Professional remediation of these sites is an absolute necessity before they can be safely used for other activities.
The adverse effects of lead contamination on human health, especially on children, are well-documented.
According to the World Health Organization’s fact sheet on lead poisoning, “there is no level of exposure to lead that is known to be without harmful effects.”
WHO writes:
Young children are particularly vulnerable to the toxic effects of lead and can suffer profound and permanent adverse health impacts, particularly on the development of the brain and nervous system. Lead also causes long-term harm in adults, including increased risk of high blood pressure and kidney damage.
This situation should be of concern to parents contemplating sending their kids to this school, especially since the District 51 School Board’s conservative majority voted recently to cede control of the charter school to the Charter School Institute, an out of town, state-level organization, as a way to bypass local input and forego control over it.
No one is taking responsibility or answering questions about possible lead contamination at the site.
I contacted ReMax realtor Amy Rogers, whose name appeared in an online ad for the old Rocky MountainGun Club building. Rogers said she was not the listing agent for the property, and said “It is always the buyer’s responsibility to do the due diligence. Perhaps reach out to the buyer?” She gave me the number of the selling agent, Ray Ricard, but Mr. Ricard did not return a voicemail left on March 21 asking for contact information for the buyer. I also left a voicemail on 3/21 for the CEO of Ascent Classical Academies, Derec Shuler, at (720) 728-6300, ext. 1, the number posted online, since he would likely have to have approved the purchase of the building for the school, but Shuler did not answer the voicemail as of the writing of this article.
The community deserves to know if the Ascent Classical Academy’s organizers are aware of the lead contamination problem at sites used as indoor shooting ranges, and that this problem is highly likely to exist at the property they just purchased for the school. Parents and the public should know if Ascent has a plan in place to remediate the building prior to it opening as a school this August, and if they plan to verify that the remediation was effective enough to assure the building is safe enough for children and adults to inhabit for hours every day for years on end.

As D-51 School Board’s conservative majority rushes to close East Middle School, it fast-tracks the opening of a religiously-affiliated charter school

District 51 School Board President Andrea Haitz

As the conservative District 51 School Board majority headed by Board President Andrea Haitz hurries to shut down East Middle School, it is fast-tracking the opening of yet another charter school, the Ascent Classical Academy, a project of Hillsdale College, a private Christian religious school located in south-central Michigan.

Ascent Classical Academy uses a curriculum advanced by Hillsdale’s Barney Charter School Initiative, “an outreach program of Hillsdale College devoted to the revitalization of public education through the launch and support of classical K-12 charter schools.”

Ascent Classical Academy plans to open in Grand Junction in August, 2023, at 545 31 Road, the building that formerly housed the Rocky Mountain Gun Club, just as the District puts the finishing touches on shutting down East Middle School, a high-performing traditional public school in the heart of downtown Grand Junction.

Teachers union president resigns via email amid flap over school closures & conservative school board members’ rejection of health clinic at GJHS

Timothy Couch, President of the Mesa Valley Education Association (MVEA), resigned via email March 8, on the same day the three-member conservative District 51 School Board majority ignored the pleas of students and voted to reject an offer by Marillac Health to operate a grant-funded, school-based health clinic at Grand Junction High School.  The three Board members rejected the clinic at a time when homelessness among D-51 students is rapidly increasing and a Youth Risk Behavior survey by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) (pdf) found poor mental health and suicidal thoughts and behaviors among students are increasing nationwide. According to the CDC, in 2021, almost 60% of female students experienced persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness during the past year and nearly 25% made a suicide plan. Suicide is also a growing problem among Mesa County youth and suicide prevention is a “health priority” for Mesa County Public Health.