Pueblo Community College’s campus in Durango will move into the west wing of Durango High School for the fall semester, a partnership that both entities see as an avenue to provide new opportunities for their students.
“We are in an educational environment where no longer does one size fit all,” said Durango School District 9-R Superintendent Dan Snowberger at a news conference Tuesday announcing the move and the partnership.
Chief beneficiary of the partnership, Snowberger said, is high school students who will have convenient access to concurrent college-level courses that will help those seeking to pursue a four-year college education in the most cost-effective and efficient way.
“The cost of a four-year college is sky high right now,” he said.
The school district also announced plans to open a child care center at the high school to serve children of teachers and staff members.
Currently, many high school students who wish to pursue a concurrent class have limited choices because they must account for travel time from DHS to the community college campus. But that travel time will be eliminated with the community college located in the west wing of the high school.
Pueblo Community College President Patty Erjavec said classes offered at the campus, which has been renamed Pueblo Community College Southwest, have been tailored to meet the needs of Durango students and community leaders.
Associate degree paths available in Durango will include sociology, psychology, education and early childhood education fields.
“We want to provide educational opportunities in an affordable manner and allow communities to have an ability to have a say in that education,” Erjavec said.
Most of the community college’s students at the Durango campus, currently located at The Commons, 701 Camino Del Rio, are 9-R students enrolled in concurrent classes, Erjavec said.
To accommodate the move, Pueblo Community College Southwest will not offer classes in Durango this summer, Erjavec said.
College-level courses in core classes such as English, math and science will be available at the new DHS site. A science lab will allow for college-level biology classes for students pursing health fields.
The community college complex will have the latest technology offering students interactive virtual communication with advisers, counselors and professors on PCC’s main campus in Pueblo and with the Mancos campus.
Durango High School Principal Jonathan Hoerl said the move provides another avenue for the high school to enhance its advance-placement classes and concurrent college offerings, and it gives the high school greater access to instructors able to teach classes at the adjunct professor level.
Snowberger said 9-R will examine expanding the partnership in the future – perhaps targeting advanced classes in the trades fields such as welding that are now provided at the Mancos campus.
“We have set a challenge to increase our rigor,” Hoerl said.
The community college’s four-classroom campus with office space is under design. It will feature a separate entrance and its own parking lot to segregate high school students from Pueblo Community College Southwest students.
In addition, Snowberger said an extra security guard will be hired with a focus on providing security for the south end of the campus, which has been a security concern given its proximity to Rank Park and the Animas River Trail.
The school district has budgeted $250,000 for the remodel and PCC $200,000.
As part of the remodel, Snowberger said an early childhood center will be added at DHS. It will provide eight spots for infants to 18-month-olds and eight spots for 19-month-olds to 3-year-olds. The spots would be reserved for 9-R teachers and staff with children, and then to PCC employees with children. If open spots remained, they would be offered to the general public.
“We have lost teachers because they have not been able to find child care in Durango. So, this is a great enhancement for us,” Snowberger said.