Academy District 20's history goes back to a time of the one-room schoolhouses on the wild western frontier. While General William Jackson Palmer was busy developing Colorado Springs, ranchers and farmers homesteading in Douglass, Pine, and Woodmen Valleys were busy organizing the twentieth school district in El Paso County. The new district, established in 1874, two years before Colorado became a state, consisted of 36 square miles. Children met in homes for their education until 1886 when the first school in the district opened in the community of Edgerton that was located at the confluence of Monument and West Monument Creeks. Typical of a one-room rural school, it featured an entryway where coats and lunches were stored, a podium in the front of the classroom for the teacher’s desk, and a potbellied stove in the middle of the room. The district’s first bus barn was the four-horse shed located on the back of the property. Stories abound of this first school of bullets fired by deer hunters flying through the school, of children fishing in Monument Creek during lunch and recess, and of the County Superintendent arriving by train that stopped on the tracks below the school.
In the early 1900s, the high altitude and dry climate of the area at the foot of Pikes Peak gained an international reputation as a cure for tuberculosis. The Modern Woodmen of America, a life insurance company, opened a TB sanatorium in what became known as Woodmen Valley. In 1915, as a result of a shift in population from the community of Edgerton to Woodmen Valley, the Edgerton School was closed and Woodmen School opened. Woodmen School remained the only school in District Twenty until 1957.
The history of education in the Black Forest parallels that of the original District 20. This area became a part of the original thirty-eighth district in El Paso County organized in 1888. The old Black Forest log school located on the corner of Shoup and Black Forest Roads has been preserved as a reminder of that past.
The one-room schools in both District Twenty and District Thirty-Eight served students in grades one through six. Secondary students were bussed to schools in outlying districts. This was not a satisfactory situation for the patrons of the districts who wanted the highest quality of education for their children. The solution to the educational needs of these two communities came in the early 1950s when the United States Air Force purchased the 18,500 acres of land that would become the Air Force Academy. The 1957 consolidation of Woodmen District Twenty, the Black Forest, and the Air Force Academy increased the size of the rural District Twenty from 36 to 130 square miles and provided the funds to build the district’s first high school. This union was accomplished by the massive effort on the part of parents, board members, educators, and Air Force Academy personnel. The name, Academy District Twenty, reflects the successful liaison between a military facility and civilian public schools.
District Twenty existed for over twenty years with one high school, one junior high, and up to six elementary schools. The decade of the 1980s brought the district’s major building boom, with the addition of two high schools, two middle schools, and five elementary schools. Nine new schools were added in the 1990s and seven were added between 2000 and 2010.
Throughout District Twenty’s rich and varied history, a dedication to ensuring quality education, dignity, and worth for each student has been steadfastly maintained. The tradition of excellence established by the founders of the district continues to be upheld by board members, administrators, educators, students, and families.