Camp Soda Creek
Soda Creek Elementary School principal Judy Harris gives a tour of "Camp Soda Creek," where students will attend school while a new school is built. Tours of the temporary school will be given Sunday form 4 to 5 p.m.
Steamboat Springs Judy Harris might be the only modern principal who ever has had to preside over a school of temporary portable classrooms during a year of record snowfall.
Her tenure at what was dubbed Camp Soda Creek in Steamboat Springs saw a lot of staff members starting work as early as 6:30 a.m. to remove thick icicles from the roofs of the modulars.
Staff members also carried hammers that sometimes were needed to chisel open classroom doors that had frozen shut.
But as the snow kept falling and the ice persisted in winter 2007-08, Harris and her staff made due while they awaited the completion of their new downtown elementary school a few blocks away.
“She made it a fun experience instead of the miserable one that could have resulted from having the largest recorded snowfall in a year when our hallways were outside,” Soda Creek Office Manager Tammy Farrell said as she recalled Harris' time as principal in the days of Camp Soda Creek. “She's definitely a class act, and we're going to miss her here in Steamboat.”
Harris, who has served the Steamboat Springs School District for 14 years, has retired and soon will move to Star, Idaho, to be closer to her family.
She started with the district in 1999 as the director of curriculum before becoming a principal.
Harris' friends said Monday that her warm personality, her resiliency and her problem-solving skills will be missed.
Although she has spent the past two school years serving as the district's director of human resources, Harris perhaps will best be remembered for her 10-year tenure as principal of Soda Creek, where she was instrumental in the construction of the new school that opened in 2008.
She has a legacy set in stone, district employees said Monday referring to the new school.
Farrell recalled that Harris even served as a sort of general contractor while the school was being constructed.
“The move was flawless as we transitioned from the camp on a Friday to the school on a Monday,” Farrell said.
Harris also fought breast cancer during her tenure as principal, and her friends and colleagues said she stayed involved with the daily happenings of the school during her treatment.
More recently, she helped establish the new health clinic for district employees and has worked hard to promote employee wellness.
“This journey has been amazing for me,” Harris said Monday during her going away party at the school district's administrative offices. “I feel like all of my colleagues at the Steamboat School District have become my family. I definitely struggle with driving out of Steamboat, but I know I can always come back and visit.”
Her colleagues brought five balloons to the party, each representing dreams of Harris' that she hopes she can accomplish in her retirement.
They include a trip to the northeast in the fall to enjoy the colorful leaves, seeing New Orleans in the spring, traveling to southern France to taste fine wines, relaxing on a bike tour of Holland and hosting a large family reunion.
“It's pretty amazing what you go through with your colleagues,” she said. “It's an amazing journey.”
To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com
Join the Yampa Valley VIP email club