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Future of Durango school buildings coming into focus, says 9-R superintendent

District plans Career Innovation Center to help students find professional passions
Durango School District 9-R is searching for a permanent home for Big Picture High School, said Superintendent Karen Cheser. The school district sold the administration building, along with the attached high school building, to Durango Fire Protection District. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

Open space, large glass windows, white boards galore and vertical-sliding garage doors aplenty.

Those, accompanied by computer displays and machines such as 3D printers, laser cutters and engravers, and computer numerical control machines – devices known as CNC that rely on programming to make precise, three-dimensional cuts into materials – are the features planned for Durango High School’s upcoming Career Innovation Center, Superintendent Karen Cheser said Friday.

She said the planned innovation center is supposed to be a place for students to explore their career options in a hands-on manner. The center is meant to help students identify skills and tasks at which they excel.

Similar “career pathway” projects are planned for Big Picture High School, which will be relocating because of the sale of the Durango School District 9-R Administration Building, which Big Picture is attached to, to the Durango Fire Protection District.

“Those career pathways would all use this new facility to do some real cool, innovative, 21st century work,” Cheser said.

Karen Cheser, Durango School District 9-R's new superintendent, plans career pathways at Big Picture High School that would encourage “real cool, innovative, 21st century work,” she said.

The school district is taking part in several career pathway programs, such as the Southwest Colorado Education Collaborative, which provides students a chance to explore interactive on-site job environments where they can explore their career interests and form relationships with working professionals.

Another program the school district hopes will connect students with future employment opportunities is the Business Education Connection, a partnership between the school district and Animas High School, a charter school, that aims to provide students with job experience and local networking opportunities.

The final relocation of Big Picture High School is still under discussion, but Cheser said the school district is in talks with Powerhouse Science Center about temporary relocation in facilities it controls.

Cheser said she couldn't talk about details because they’re still being finalized.

“We have found a way to build it (Miller Middle School) on the same campus while students are still in the building,” Cheser said.

Architects tasked with designing the new layout are constructing the new school building with plans to rearrange the track & field track, Cheser said.

Details on the rearrangement have not yet been released.

Cheser said the district is performing maintenance work across the school district, including new parking lots, roofing and other infrastructure updates.


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