Our District's Needs

Community Survey results

We are pleased to present the results of a survey of 1,784 voters in Durango School District. The interviews were conducted from April 18 to May 5, 2024. The overall survey responses have a margin of error of +/- 2.26% at the 95% confidence interval. Population subgroups will have a higher margin of error than the overall sample. The survey data were weighted to represent presidential election year turnout in the District.

Potential $150 million bond 

The District’s Long-Range Planning Committee, composed of district employees, community members, business representatives, and others, met for over a year to help identify priorities and guide the district on the most critical items to address.

Among those items were addressing deferred maintenance, building a new school at Three Springs, eliminating leased facilities/owning land and buildings, conversion of existing district buildings for other use, sustainability initiatives, renovating Escalante Middle School, replacing furniture district-wide, and exploring housing options for employees.

To achieve all of these goals the committee estimates the entire need to be about $250 million. The District is considering a ballot measure asking voters to approve a $150 million bond to address aging school buildings, facility improvements, and maintenance needs. This bond would ask for an extension on previous taxes approved in prior bond elections. If passed, the bond would cost a homeowner about $14 per month, or $167 annually, for a home valued at $500,000. The bond measure would be audited quarterly by a citizen oversight committee. 

Top 8 needs of the district

Our Long-Range Planning Committee identified the following eight needs as the top priorities of Durango School District 9-R.

  • New School – Replace Florida Mesa Elementary School with a new school located at Three Springs. To enhance student learning and achievement and increase the level of service to children and their families, the District’s Long-Range Planning Committee recommends building Three Springs Elementary to replace Florida Mesa Elementary and better serve an area where Durango is seeing significant growth. The land has been gifted to the district, making construction more affordable. The cost is estimated at $50 million. 

  • Housing – Assist in providing affordable housing options for employees of the district. The District’s Long-Range Planning Committee identified a need to address employee housing costs. Durango's median home price has increased drastically, and rents have seen similar increases over the last several years. To provide excellent education, we need excellent teachers. Many other mountain towns across Colorado are experiencing similar struggles with recruiting new teachers, staff and retaining them. The cost of this solution is widespread as several options are being considered, including using district land, repurposing district buildings, partnering with other Durango entities and perhaps outside entities for a public-private partnership, and more. 

  • Maintenance – Complete deferred maintenance and facilities projects. The average age of a building in the school district is 43 years old. Nearly all buildings need electrical, mechanical, roofing, plumbing, and safety fixes and upgrades. Building improvement projects that need to be addressed immediately are estimated to cost $9.6 million. Over the next ten years, an estimated $129.1 million is necessary to maintain or repair our school building. Approximately $84.3 million of that is needed over the next five years. Broadly speaking, the top needs are roofing, interior work/renovation, mechanical systems, electrical upgrades, and upgrades to fire and life safety systems. An October 2023 facility condition report found six of the school district’s ten facilities were below average, mostly due to building systems nearing or beyond their expected service lives.

  • Buildings & Permanent Spaces – Purchase buildings for Facilities and Information Technology Departments. Permanent buildings for The Hub and Big Picture High School.  To reduce ongoing costs, Durango School District is eliminating the use of leased facilities. Currently, the district leases space for Big Picture High School, The Hub, and warehouse/office space for the facilities, custodial, and technology departments. Eliminating these leases would allow investment in owned land/buildings, which the committee sees as more practical for the long term. For example, one thought is to use the Florida Mesa Elementary school/campus to consolidate some of the departments currently leasing space. The estimated cost of eliminating and replacing leases with owned buildings is approximately $55 million.

  • Energy & SOIL – Complete energy upgrades and build an Education Center at the SOIL Outdoor Learning Lab. To comply with state mandates and reduce operational costs, the district’s board recently approved a sustainability/energy project that is budget neutral inclusive of installing LED lighting, insulating buildings, and incorporating solar arrays on a number of campuses. The district is proud that all of this work will be done within the existing operating budget. However, additional sustainability initiatives are needed, including reducing water consumption with low-flow technology. This is estimated to cost $600,000. To support the Career and Technical Education Pathways program, the district proposes building the SOIL Education Center (example image above), a SOIL Outdoor Learning Lab component. This school and community building would contain classroom and workshop space, a commercial and demonstration kitchen, and indoor growing facilities. It is estimated to cost $2.4 million.

  • Escalante –  Renovate Escalante Middle School.  The District’s Long-Range Planning Committee identified a need to renovate Escalante Middle School. Renovations at this school would help ensure an equitable experience across our middle schools, given Miller Middle School will be brand new in the fall of 2024. Renovations would include, but not be limited to, drawing in more natural light, interior renovation, mechanical systems upgrades, upgrades and improvements to our CTE pathways, and more. The estimated cost of these renovations is approximately $15 million. 

  • Furniture – Purchase new furniture throughout the district. The District's Long-Range Planning Committee identified a need to replace classroom furniture district wide. In most cases, furniture has not been replaced in the last 20 years. Replacing furniture would help accommodate how children learn today, providing more group learning space, mixed-use, and repurposable furniture, agile classrooms, and more. The estimated cost for this, district-wide, is approximately $12.5 million.  

State of the District meetings

In March and April 2024, Superintendent Dr. Karen Cheser held a community meeting series called “State of the District: Growing Our Future Workers.” The meetings were held at 12 of the district's schools throughout La Plata County, and heavily publicized across multiple media channels. Everyone was invited – students, staff, families, community members – to listen and contribute to the ever-evolving story of Durango School District 9-R. Board of Education members and other school and district leaders were in attendance.The meetings included

  • Overview of the district’s vision and strategy
  • Celebration of the district’s good news and each school’s successes
  • Sharing goals for the future from our Long-Range Planning Committee
  • Describing the district’s specific facilities and funding needs
  • Gathering feedback from attendees and encouraging engagement

Committee invitation

We welcome support from community volunteers. We want your feedback to find ways to address our district's needs. Note: meeting details of day, time, frequency, and virtual or in-person have not yet been determined for this committee. If you're interested in participating, please email [email protected].