In 1979, the Cali born Maria Mercedes Londoño de Gutierrez, along with an American educator Joanne Smith Barrett and a group of adventurous, forward thinking Manizales parents, began an investigation into the possibility of creating a bilingual school along the lines of other highly successful American International schools throughout the country. Their dream was to provide their children with a high quality English-Spanish education that was at the vanguard of current social and educational philosophy. Deciding to be community based, non-denominational school offering transportation and lunch services while providing a co-educational, holistic, bilingual education put them at the forefront of educational practice in the city and state from the start.
In November of 1980 the first official meeting was held, and Asociación Colegio Granadino was founded, its membership consisting of the families who had begun and been drawn into a progressive educational ideal. The association’s first administrative team consisted of Dr. Alix Saffon, a Manizales Lawyer, acting to conform the association’s legal constitution, Joanne Smith Barrett, as the school’s Academic Director, Marujita Escobar, as the school’s General Director, and Maria Mercedes Londoño de Gutiérrez, as the association’s Executive Director.
Through the tireless efforts and continuous commitment of Maria Mercedes, Joanne and this group of dedicated parents, and with the guidance of Dr. Martin Felton, the director of Colegio Bolivar in Cali, curriculum and policy work was begun and the project was quickly realized. Colegio Granadino opened its doors on the 9th of February 1981 with 45 students in classes of Kinder 4 and Kinder 5. An additional class was opened for every subsequent year until the full program from K4 to grade 12 was realized.
While the school was begun in a refurbished house in Palogrande, it quickly outgrew its initial site. In December of 1982, the founders bought a 50,000 m2 lot in the countryside zone of La Florida, again finding themselves to be at the vanguard as the first school to take this risk of moving outside of the city. On February 6th, 1984 the Colegio Granadino opened the doors of its current site, with classes beginning in the refurbished area of the stables and original “Red House” of the farm, a building, which remains the iconic symbol of the school’s character and history. With 153 students, and growing purpose built facilities, the school was now able to fully embrace its mission of providing a holistic, bilingual education focused on the social, emotional, physical, spiritual, ethical, and academic growth of its students.
It is in this current site that the school has continued to grow and thrive, always seeking the next frontier in education for the benefit of their students and community. The facilities have continued to grow and now it´s composed by 5 sections (Kindergarten, Preschool, Elementary, Middle and High School) which consist of 53 classrooms (including 3 for arts, 2 for music and 1 for theater), 96 bathrooms, 12 offices, 2 auditoriums, 1smaller coliseum, 1library, 3 computer labs, 4 science labs (biology, physics, chemistry and science), 1 restaurant and / or multipurpose room, 1 staff´s cafeteria, 1 Coliseum (3 multiple courts), 3 soccer fields, 1 tennis court, 1 bikers track , 1 multiple court, 2 playground sections, 1 street gymnasium, a variety of green areas and the red house, which now houses the administrative offices of the School.
This physical growth has, naturally, been in response to change and growth in the school’s program. In 1987, Granadino became the first school in the city to change to Calendar B, in response to both educational and staffing needs, with over 20 expatriate teachers on staff and growing evidence of the efficacy of the alternative calendar. In 2001, they became the first school in the Eje Cafetero to receive accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools out of the U.S.A., a step which not only ensured the continuing improvement of the school’s educational program, but which also offered our graduating students an American High School Graduation Diploma in addition to their Colombian Bachillerato. To complement this, in 2006, ISO 9001 Certification was also completed, ensuring the effective operations of the school as well. On August 9th, 2007, the final step in the growth of the school’s program was made with the construction of the Granadino Jardín Infantil, a purpose built Reggio Emilia facility for the education of children from one to 3 years old, addressing a need for young professional parents in Manizales for the physical, emotional and intellectual care of their children. With this final step, the school could now meet the educational needs of our families for every phase of their pre-university education, boasting a program that has ranked Muy Superior, consistently number one in Manizales and Caldas, and as high as 65th in the country in the ICFES, Prueba Saber examinations.
As Granadino moves forward into the 21st Century, there is little doubt that its history will continue to influence its future. As a school based on community, excellence, and continually striving to be at the vanguard of education, we will continue to seek the best possible education and formation for our students, preparing them not only for the world of today, but the world of tomorrow. Athletics, Arts, Leadership, Character, and a Healthy Lifestyle will remain our focus, with the tools and demands of an ever changing world incorporated as they appear. The INNOVA One-to-One tablet program begins simply the next step in our ever evolving program, and we look forward to a future that does credit to our past.