Colorado State Board of Education upholds district’s denial of Ascent

In June 2022, the district’s Board of Education voted to deny Ascent’s application to operate a charter school in the district. The state board’s decision aligns with the 9-R board’s assessment that Ascent was not in the best interest of the students, district, or community.  

"The community had a voice in this," said Cheser. "Before the decision was made, we listened to feedback from hundreds of stakeholders, including advisory committees, families, staff, and community members at a public forum."

The district’s Board President Kristin Smith also emphasized the importance of listening to the community. “We are all parents on the Board, and we care deeply about hearing from other parents.” 

Smith said this is evidenced by open coffee chats, traveling work sessions to school sites to engage with students and their families, offering monthly public comment opportunities, scheduling forums to engage parents on hot-button issues, and constant encouragement and support for parent involvement in School Advisory Councils, Parent Teacher Organizations, and the district’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging committee. 

“We support school choice,” said Cheser. “Families can find the right fit for their kids through open enrollment in any of the 14 schools in our district.” These include seven elementary schools, two middle schools, Durango High School, and: 

  • Juniper Elementary School, a K-5 charter school
  • Shared School, enriched learning for homeschool students
  • Durango Big Picture High School, an alternative experiential learning environment
  • Colorado Connections Academy, an online school
  • The district’s Board also supports school choice through the sharing of mill levy and bond funds with other local area charter schools.

“We are proud of our excellent, thriving schools – with test scores in the top 20% in the state and a teacher recognized last week as one of the best in the nation,” said Cheser. “We welcome all families, and we work hard to make sure all children feel like they belong.”