Construction will begin next month at Mountain Middle School on a 7,000-square-foot, $3.5 million expansion to the south of the main building that will add classrooms for an additional 60 fourth and fifth graders.
The new building, which is expected to be ready for occupancy in April 2022, will also include space for a digital maker space lab and an art studio.
The digital maker space lab the and the art studio will be used by all students at the school and is designed to support project-based learning, the centerpiece of Mountain’s curriculum.
“We’re excited about the community support,” said Head of School Shane Voss. “This will be one of the first projects that will be funded with the bond issue.”
Durango’s three charter schools, Animas High School, The Juniper School and Mountain, each received $2.5 million from the $114.2 million raised in March from a sale of bonds voters approved in November for Durango School District 9-R.
The district’s bond issuance was the first in Colorado to include bond money to finance construction projects for nondistrict schools chartered by the state through the Colorado Charter School Institute.
Both Mountain Middle and AHS are chartered through CCSI. The Juniper School is chartered through 9-R.
In 2016, when voters approved a $1.7 million mill levy override, 9-R was the first school district in the state to provide CCSI charter schools with additional funding from a mill levy. Mill levy money generally pays for general operations, such as teacher salaries and ongoing operational expenses of schools.
“We have a very strong partnership with 9-R,” Voss said. “The intention is one community, one goal – to provide the best education possible for all public school students in Durango.”
Voss represented charter schools on the search committee to find a new 9-R superintendent. He said he expected Karen Cheser, who will take over as 9-R superintendent on July 1, will continue the district’s cooperative and supportive relationship with charter schools.
“That was a big part of the interview process. And, and I think she is definitely forward-thinking and a champion of progressive methodologies,” Voss said. “I think she’s excited about some of the choices that exist here in Durango and will be working to expand those partnerships.”
The new building’s added classrooms will accommodate 60 new spots for fourth and fifth graders at the school. The additional students would be added for the 2022-23 school year.
For 11 years, Mountain Middle School has held a lottery to register students because more applicants have been received than the available space. It currently serves fourth through eighth grades.
Mountain will take out a small construction loan to get work underway, but it had already raised a little more than $1 million before passage of the 9-R bonds in November, Voss said.
The $2.5 million from 9-R bonds combined with the $1 million from private donations will be sufficient to finance the new building, he said.