Gilpin County was established in 1861. One of the original 17 counties, Gilpin was named after Colorado’s first governor of the Territory of Colorado, William Gilpin. The first public schools in Gilpin County were established a year later in 1862. There were three schools in the area at that time: one each in Central City, Black Hawk and Russell Gulch. At one time there were sixteen schools in the county. The first high school graduation was in 1888 at Central City High School (in future years the school was known as Union High School).
As the turn of the century approached, high school enrollment had grown and much of the existing building was occupied by secondary students. To address the number of students in school, Voters and District 1 responded by approving and building a separate elementary school, Clark Grade School, around 1900 in Central City. In 1921 Gilpin County High School was established by a vote of the people. The Gilpin County High School District paid rent to District 31 for the use of their building. A few years later, a bond issue was passed so that the new high school district could purchase the building from District 1. The price included the heating plant located in the Clark School building.
On October 26, 1959, Gilpin County School District RE-1 was voted into existence, reorganizing seven districts and one County High School District into one county-wide district. Motivated by financial issues in 1965, the Board of Education in Gilpin and in Boulder Valley voted to redraw district boundaries. Gilpin County School District RE-1 was divided almost in half. The southern half remained as Gilpin RE-1 while the northern half of the county was incorporated into the Boulder Valley School District. Gilpin RE-1 students attended school in grades K-6 at Clark Elementary School in Central City. Students in grades 7-12 attended school in Jefferson County or Clear Creek School Districts.
As student enrollment numbers grew, parents requested a new school building that would bring secondary students home to Gilpin RE-1. Voters approved the construction of the new school in the spring of 1978.
The school site was relocated to its present location a few miles north of Black Hawk on Highway 119 in 1978. The one level construction included a library, a multi-purpose room for physical education classes that also included a kitchen for lunch services, and 17 classrooms that served kindergarten through twelfth grade. Two years later as enrollment increased, additional classrooms were constructed at the west end and east end of the 1979 structure. In 1980, the main hallway was extended west and five classrooms were added. And, at the same time, the main hallway was extended east and six classrooms were added on the main level. The mountain terrain enabled the east addition to include a lower level that housed a wood shop, metal shop, and fine arts classrooms. Additionally, a separate gymnasium with bleacher seating to serve as a field house was constructed in 1980 just up the hill from the new school structure. This facility served the needs of the students in the community for the next 20 years.
The late 1990s brought the legalization of limited gaming and gambling to Black Hawk and Central City. Civic and school leaders anticipated a population increase to occur in conjunction with the development of the casino industry. With the anticipation of more students, a new building was planned and voters approved a bond issue to finance a three story middle/high school building north of the current school that welcomed students to its new classrooms in 2000. This new construction incorporated a waste water treatment plant on the campus along with the construction of a transportation maintenance garage.
The entire school complex has a student enrollment capacity of 600 students in grades pre-school through grade 12. However, the gaming industry did not bring a boom increase of residents to the county or students to the school. The school is a fitting place for students to learn and teachers to teach.
Curricular and extracurricular offerings have been varied and many throughout the time since secondary students returned to Gilpin in 1978. At that time wood shop, photography, drafting, art, theatre, and music were prominent courses in student schedules. Football, basketball, track, volleyball, and cheerleading have been popular sports for students to participate in over the past 25 years. Advanced coursework in English and math are offered at the school or students may concurrently enroll in college courses and take the courses at college or online at Gilpin RE-1. Spanish is offered to both middle school and high school students. The Gilpin RE-1 Board of Education has ensured over decades that the Preschool through twelfth grade program has provided a very comprehensive educational experience to all students.