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Durango High School career innovation center to break ground in September

Former student plays crucial role in building’s development
Construction of Durango High School’s career innovation center will start in the fall. Construction is expected to be completed by January 2023. (Durango Herald file)

Construction for Durango High School’s Impact Career Innovation Center will break ground in September.

The 12,000-square-foot building was funded through Bond Issue 4A, which allocated $90 million to Durango School District 9-R for facility upgrades, and was designed by Anderson Mason Dale Architects.

The building will cost about $10 million and will feature the use of natural light through skylights. It will be two stories with a makerspace, breakout rooms and a pitch room upstairs. The bottom floor will include a common area, a cafe and rooms for students to collaborate.

Former DHS student Nick Huber was heavily involved with developing the new building. Huber started working with DHS three years ago to find funding for a building dedicated to the Career and Technical Education program. His work included helping DHS receive the Homegrown Talent Initiative grant that aided 9-R in developing Portrait of a Graduate.

“Once the 4A bond was passed, and we realized we had some funds to build up a facility like this, I really provided student perspective and represented student voice throughout the process in terms of what this building could look like and what it could offer to our students,” Huber said.

The 2022 graduate was hired by Anderson Mason Dale to help with programming and designing the building. Because of Huber’s success with the CTE program, his feedback was heavily considered in discussions about the career innovation center.

“Between the high-tech integrations, modern business environment feel, spaces intentionally focused on the design thinking process and the flexible spaces, this building will be able to support nearly any existing and future programming the school district provides to students,” Huber said.

The district wanted to create a building where students and the community can connect while engaging in a professional environment. Huber said he noticed interest in technical fields becoming a trend at DHS. He cited the school’s internship class, which doubled in size from its first year in 2020-21, as a reason.

He said students have more fun when engaging in technical settings and they enjoy learning skills not offered by traditional education.

“This facility will kind of change how we approach some of the stigmas around career and technical education,” Huber said. “I think this facility specifically will provide students with so many more opportunities to directly learn skills associated with their interests.”

In May, the school district unveiled its Portrait of a Graduate plan, which promotes entrepreneurial thinking and creative problem-solving. The school district hopes the addition of the building will create an environment that promotes professionalism. Many of the of the rooms in the building are designed to look like conference rooms rather than a classroom for that reason.

“Students in every single career pathway will be able to use this building,” said Superintendent Karen Cheser. “They will thrive and have true work-based learning experiences, authentic projects and meaningful partnerships with industry partners in our community.”

In a board meeting presentation on May 24, Cheser said the building will accelerate design thinking and help prepare students for the future workplace.

“It’s a state-of-the-art center where our students will make an impact,” she said. “They will make a difference in their community and in the world.”

Construction is scheduled to be completed by January 2024.


An earlier version of this story gave an incorrect date for when construction of the Career Innovation Center will be complete. Construction will be completed in January of 2024. Incorrect information was given to The Durango Herald.

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