Log In

Reset Password
News Education Local News Nation & World New Mexico

Durango School District contemplates $150M bond for new school, other upgrades

9-R looks to purchase more buildings instead of leasing property
Durango School District 9-R’s Impact Career Innovation Center, located at Durango High School, was paid for by Bond Issue 4A money. (Tyler Brown/Durango Herald file)

Durango School District 9-R is considering a ballot measure that would ask voters to approve a $150 million bond in November.

The bond would go toward addressing deferred maintenance, building a new school at Three Springs, eliminating leased facilities and buildings, converting existing 9-R buildings for other uses, renovating Escalante Middle School, and exploring housing options for employees, to name a few.

It would ask for an extension on previous taxes approved in prior bond elections. If passed, the bond would cost a homeowner about $14 per month, or $167 annually, for a home valued at $500,000, the district says. The bond measure would be audited quarterly by a citizen oversight committee, according to the district’s website.

One of the more notable reasons for the bond is to possibly build a new school in Three Springs to replace Florida Mesa Elementary School. That would give the district the option to consolidate leased properties to the Florida Mesa building, said district Chief Operations Officer Chris Coleman.

But that is just one possibility out of many, he said.

“One of those possibilities would be to create a centralized home or office for our facilities, custodial technology departments, where we are currently leasing facilities,” Coleman said.

The district is currently spending about $400,000 per year on leased properties. Long-term, it is better for the district to use properties it owns compared to renting, Coleman added.

The estimated cost of building a school in Three Springs is $50 million.

The district is also seeking land to build affordable housing units for its employees. 9-R has struggled in recent years to hire positions such as bus drivers, substitute teachers and paraprofessionals.

If a new school is built in Three Springs, it also presents the possibility of relocating the district bus depot on Colorado Highway 3 to the Florida Mesa property. That would open up space for the district to repurpose the bus depot land for employee housing.

“We're in conversations with multiple players throughout the community, including Fort Lewis College, who is also trying to solve for employee and staff housing,” Coleman said.

Coleman said it depends on what the community supports.

Cost of living has been a consistent issue among the community since the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to data from Region 9 Economic Development, a Durango employee with no children must make $19.70 per hour to live in Durango.

The district has been able to stay within Region 9’s estimation, paying employees from $19.26 to $42.75 per hour, according to a news blurb sent out to parents last September.

But limited housing options has still made it difficult for the district to attract candidates.

“We've had some success in filling some very specific positions,” Coleman said. “But there are certainly others where we struggled all year long and continue to struggle. Affordable housing is just one cog in the wheel for people.”

Bond dollars would also go toward purchasing new buildings for the district.

Currently, the district leases space for Big Picture High School; The Hub; and warehouse and office space for the facilities, custodial and technology departments. Eliminating those leases would allow investment in owned land and building purchases.

“Big Picture High School is a great example,” Coleman said. “The space that we're renting or leasing is not really ideal.”

The district moved Big Picture from its location on east 12th Street to the Durango Tech Center in 2023.


Reader Comments