Durango Big Picture High School students will do community internships Tuesdays and Thursdays, while attending school Mondays, Wed-nesdays and Fridays. The internships are a key part of the school's curriculum.
Students will be linked to internships in areas of interest and hosted by mentors.
At a meeting Wednesday at Durango High School, teacher Roberto Javier listed a roster of people he said had agreed to mentor students: Heemun Kwok, an emergency room doctor at Mercy Regional Medical Center; Gary Provencher, owner of Second Avenue Sports; Becky Rockis, owner of Backcountry Experience; Pat Murphy, co-owner of Morehart Murphy Regional Auto Center; and Joelle Riddle, La Plata County commissioner.
Mentors will be subject to the same fingerprinting and background checks as teachers, Manuel Sanchez, a teacher, said in response to a mother's question at the meeting.
Students will conduct months-long projects that will be subject to public examination and evaluation by a panel of adults. The projects will be used in lieu of classes to award credit and meet state standards.
Durango Big Picture High School is based on a model first developed in Providence, R.I., a dozen years ago. More than 60 Big Picture schools have opened across the United States, and others exist in Israel, the Netherlands and Australia.
Durango educators visited Big Picture schools in Providence and Denver. They touted the model's track record, which claims a 96 percent graduation rate and a 92 percent college admissions rate.
Students will be assigned a mentor, who will be responsible for only 17 students, and the mentor will follow his or her students through each successive grade.
Durango Big Picture High students will be allowed to participate in Durango High athletics. However, special arrangements will have to be made for Big Picture High students who wish to study foreign language before 11th grade. Big Picture High will not have a foreign language teacher during the 2009-10 school year.