- Traverse Academy
Traverse Academy officially opens, welcomes students
After years of planning, design, and construction, Traverse Academy, the nation’s first mental health treatment facility operated by a school district, is welcoming students in the Cherry Creek School District. Thanks to the support of local taxpayers who approved funding for the building as part of the 2020 bond measure, the facility has become a reality for students ages 10-18 who are experiencing a mental health crisis.
The building received a formal opening during a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday, October 13, where school and district staff, community members and partners met to celebrate this milestone.
“We understand that mental health issues can impact a student’s ability to learn, grow, and meet their full potential,” Traverse Academy principal Kim Avalos shared. “Providing these essential services within our school district ensures mental health is prioritized alongside academic achievement.”
The project was led by Assistant Superintendent Tony Poole, who oversees departments that support students in special education, gifted and talented, and other populations. Great care went into the design of the facility, which includes an outdoor learning space, meditative labyrinth, rock climbing wall, space to enjoy coffee, and more. From the warm paint colors to the curved edges of walls and furniture to student-friendly furniture like bean bags, every decision was made with students in mind.
“Everything was thoughtfully designed to make sure students felt welcomed, safe, and comfortable,” Poole said. “And that they were NOT in a clinic, and that there was NOT anything wrong with them.”
In recent years, facilities that serve students in mental health crises have dwindled from 77 to 16 facilities in Colorado. Emergency room visits have increased and youth in crisis represent a higher proportion than ever before. As the district had conversations about how to best support students, one singular idea emerged – to build a facility owned and operated by the district itself. The district is partnering with the University of Colorado Department of Psychiatry, which will help provide clinical services at the facility.
“Something like this will change the lives of students,” Superintendent Christopher Smith said. “It will save the lives of students.”
To respect student privacy, the students pictured in the photos are volunteer student actors, not current Traverse Academy students.