The front doors of the Boulder College of Massage Therapy featured a pair of new signs Thursday, the first day of classes at the school since its closure in mid-June.
One featured a photo of a bird and the message, "Welcome back to our students. Thank you for flying back to the nest!!"
The other read, "We are so happy you have returned!!!"
The school last held classes at its Gunbarrel facility, 6255 Longbow Drive, on June 14. Its board voted in early June to shut down, anticipating that state higher education regulators -- citing a long list of financial concerns -- would soon send a notice of noncompliance and seek to revoke the school's license.
While there are hurdles yet to clear before it's business as usual on campus, the Boulder College of Massage Therapy now has a $1.3 million commitment from Oklahoma oilman David Chernicky at its back and administrators are confident issues with state and federal education regulators soon will be resolved.
For students in the building Thursday, those issues were far away and the focus was fixed squarely on the relief of being back.
"I woke up this morning and said, 'I get to go to school today!'" said Aubrey Ruck, a 19-year-old Johnstown resident in her third quarter at the massage school. "It's been my dream for about three years to come here. I'm happy to come back and finish the dream."
The board of the Colorado Division of Private Occupational Schools in early June recommended that the Boulder College of Massage Therapy shut down, citing numerous issues with its financial health.
Among the state's concerns was that the U.S. Department of Education had informed the school in January that it failed to meet financial responsibility standards required of institutions that access federal student loan funding. The department put the college on heightened financial monitoring.
Dirk McCuistion, a Boulder College of Massage Therapy graduate who took over as the school's president 18 months ago in hopes of stabilizing it, said efforts made to increase enrollment, reinvigorate the curriculum and settle its financial problems were working before the self-imposed closure.
Chernicky heard about the school's situation from a student he knows and supports, he said. On Wednesday he posted a $653,525 letter of credit to the U.S. Department of Education so that the Boulder College of Massage Therapy can again access federal scholarship funding. He also replenished the school's $400,000 real estate bond reserves and has so far injected $250,000 in cash into the school's operations.
"It wasn't anything a little money couldn't cure," said Chernicky, chairman of Tulsa-based New Dominion LLC and a philanthropist. "I'm just in a position where I can help and I think it's a noble cause. I'm going to do everything I can to back Dirk."
After being informed it would reopen, the Division of Private Occupational Schools filed a notice of noncompliance against the Boulder College of Massage Therapy on July 3, giving school officials 10 days to address previous concerns about finances.
Nancy Mitchell, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Higher Education, said the state granted the massage school an extension, and its response is now due Monday.
The school, which had 110 students enrolled when it closed, also has a hearing before federal education officials later this year pending the outcome of noncompliance issues.
Pauly Salazar, 20, joined eight other students in a class Thursday focused on working with people with disabilities. Salazar, who was sitting at the "bawlers' table" when the closure was announced, took a chance on the Boulder College of Massage Therapy, as she did not seek to enroll elsewhere while it was shut down.
"I kept the faith to wait it out," she said. "It happened and it is definitely a lifesaver, not just for me but for all of us that came back."
Contact Camera Staff Writer Joe Rubino at 303-473-1328 or email@example.com.