Rancho Valmora is closing

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By David Giuliani

Rancho Valmora, a residential treatment center for troubled teens, is in the process of closing.

The facility’s parent organization, Social Learning Environments, is consolidating Rancho Valmora’s operations into centers in Fort Davis, Texas, and Missoula, Mont.

Rancho Valmora started near Watrous in the early 1990s and is believed to have been the largest private employer in Mora County at one point. It is unclear how many employees will lose their jobs as a result of the shutdown.

Social Learning Environments made the decision a couple of weeks ago. Officials from the organization couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday.

According to Rancho Valmora’s web site, the center is closing because of the bad economy. The organization’s programs have been operating under capacity for the last year, as have many programs in the industry, the site states.

“The real difficulty was the determination as to which program would be consolidated with the others. The decision to consolidate Rancho Valmora was based upon current and projected student numbers, the relative ease of transferring students and chosen staff, and our ability to maintain treatment continuity with existing students,” the web site reads.

The site states that the Rancho Valmora board looks forward to a time when it can re-establish the local programs, but that will depend on economic conditions.

Editha Bartley, an Optic columnist, grew up on what became Rancho Valmora. Starting in 1904 and until the 1970s, it was the Valmora Sanitorium, which was founded by her grandfather, Dr. William Brown, and later run by her father, Dr. John Gellenthien.

“This breaks my heart, but I don’t think it will be closed for long,” she said. “They have a dynamic board, and in a short period of time, it will rise again from the ashes. I think there is a need for schools like this. We need the employment.”