Big Picture High School has found a new home at the Durango Tech Center for the 2023-24 school year.
The move comes after Durango School District 9-R sold its administration building parcel, which included a location for Big Picture, to Durango Fire Protection District in December 2021.
“We knew last year that we were going to need to start the process of looking for a new space for us,” said Big Picture principal Samantha Tower.
In December, 9-R signed a three-year lease with Tech Center Partners. The new location will be at 150 Tech Center Drive, Suites A and Suite E.
It is about 7,817 square feet of the commercial building with exterior areas and perimeter parking in the lower parking lot. The move is planned to take place in April and the school will be fully moved in by June.
“It’s definitely a newer building. I feel like the potential beauty is that it’s set up in a more professional fashion,” Tower said.
Big Picture’s curriculum focuses on developing personalized learning plans, some of which include independent projects, content-specific experiences and comprehensive internships each year.
Tower said the new location will create an environment that is conducive to the curriculum the school offers with smaller spaces where teachers and students can set up independent learning stations.
“Relocating a school is a ton of work and adjustment for staff, students and families, but it will be worth it. This is a great opportunity to be in a cool, unconventional space,” said 9-R Superintendent Karen Cheser. “There will be so much more room for our students and staff, which means we can expand our programming and welcome more students who are currently on a waitlist.”
BPHS is a part of the Big Picture Learning Network, an international network of schools started in 1995 in the United States. There are now about 65 schools in the U.S. and more than 100 schools internationally.
The Durango location enrolls about 90 students and Tower hopes the number continues to grow.
She said alternative education has become more popular because the world is different from 20 years ago.
The aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic allowed educators to explore different avenues of instruction, she said.
Tower added there are some misconceptions about alternative schools and the students who attend them. Throughout her 10 years working for the district she’s heard the perception that students at alternative schools are labeled as troubled kids.
She said that couldn’t be further from the truth and addressed how some students need different learning environments to succeed.
“I don’t want people to ever have that perception,” Tower said. “Our kids are equally as amazing.”
While Big Picture is leaving the district administration building, 9-R intends to stay in the building and pay Durango Fire Protection District rent until the school district can work out a trade or agreement with the city regarding Buckley Park and a city-owned building.