Gillian Holmgren March 12, 2018

Durango High School students and staff can expect big changes next year. Starting in June, Southwest Community College (formerly Pueblo Community College) is moving in.

SWCC’s Durango campus currently lays on the second floor of the Common Building, adjacent to Albertsons. The facility, which was originally built as commercial office space, currently houses approximately 50 students.

SWCC has the express goal to prepare students for technical careers and provide a pathway to four year institutions with transferable credits. For students who do not have the resources, time, or academic statistics to secure a spot at a four year institution, SWCC provides an alternative post-secondary route.
This summer, after SWCC’s lease expires at the Commons Building, the community college will move in to the Durango High School campus, where they will rent DHS’s west wing pod, made up of four classrooms and two offices.

PCC is changing facilities primarily for financial reasons.

“Their lease is pretty expensive in cost. As a district, we wanted to make sure we kept a two year college in our town” said Dan Snowberger, the superintendent of 9R.

Although the final contract has not been drawn up yet, the lease will likely include in kind donations as well as purely monetary rent.

“We have commited the space. Some of what we are going to gain is equipment and access to materials. Others will be financial resources” said Snowberger.

In addition to ensuring a continued community college presence, the move is touted to make college level concurrent enrollment classes accessible to more students. Concurrent enrollment is when high school students take college classes for college credit after they have exhausted the options available at the high school level. Currently, students who are concurrently enrolled in SWCC or Fort Lewis classes travel to their respective campuses for class.

“This partnership will help out students who have a hard time getting to a college campus. Students without transportation have difficulty getting to Fort Lewis or SWCC campus” said Snowberger, alluding to the idea that more students will concurrently enroll if the transportation barriers are removed.

“Aligning SWCC classes with our schedule will make it that much more convenient” said Snowberger.

Along the lines of convenience, DHS administration is also considering the possibility of SWCC teachers teaching entirely high school classes for college credit. In order for teachers to be certified as an adjuncts, they must have a masters with 18 credit hours in the content to be certified as an adjunct. While there are a couple teachers at DHS that meet that requirement, partnering with SWCC would result in more opportunities for high school students to receive college and high school credit simultaneously.

“If we wanted to run college algebra we can just tell them we need a professor to come teach fourth hour. Students could then get college credit without any additional complications” said DHS principal Jon Hoerl.   

From the SWCC perspective, the move to DHS will result in improved classrooms as their current location, the Common Building, is not built with teaching in mind. However, by the same token, SWCC students will lose some of their free space where students can work and be social.

“The high school set up is really designed for not hanging out. I have a lot of students who are on campus 8-10 hours a day. As a teacher, I really want to encourage them to spend as much time as they can studying,” said Craig Feigenbaum, a biology faculty member who teaches on both the Mancos and Durango campuses.

Feigenbaum also recognizes certain advantages to the DHS facility, which he believes will improve PCC after overcoming the logistical challenges of a campus relocation.

“Here at the Commons, the classrooms are small, they are all carpeted, it’s not great for a biology lab. Moving to the new location, I am really excited because the facilities were built for education,” said Feigenbaum.

Southwest Community College will pay for all renovations in the west wing, including the new biology lab, which DHS students will have access to, as well as a bathroom that can be accessible during baseball games and tennis matches.   

The decision was not met without controversy, however, primarily over the safety of mixing high school students with college students.  In response, advocates of the partnership drew up a design that would make the SWCC space accessible only from outside. Additionally, SWCC has committed to having a site coordinator and a security guard on site from 7a.m. to 8p.m. during school days.

Parking is not expected to be an issue, as SWCC is only expected to have about NUMBER OF CLASSES A DAY.

Response from the community was given through school board meetings, and plans for the move were announced via the meeting agendas.

“It’s been on the board’s agenda. We heard some feedback from individuals, both positive and negative, there were concerns and we’ve tried to address those concerns, specifically related to safety,” said Andrew Burns, project manager of the merge between SWCC and DHS.

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