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Gov. Polis tours Impact Career Innovation Center at Durango High School

New $10 million building set to open its doors in January
Gov. Jared Polis, along with Durango School District 9-R board members and students, tours the new Impact Career Innovation Center. (Tyler Brown/Durango Herald)

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis visited Durango High School on Monday to tour the district’s new Impact Career Innovation Center.

The career development center is set to open in January 2024 as a space where students can pursue 14 different technical education pathways. In addition, the building will also be home to many of the district’s concurrent enrollment courses with Fort Lewis College and Pueblo Community College.

Students led the governor through each of the new building’s classrooms Monday afternoon.

“I like the idea of embedding entrepreneurship into different disciplines which is great for the school district,” Polis said.

DHS sophomore Andre Craig talks about the pitch rooms at career innovation center. (Tyler Brown/Durango Herald)

The building’s construction comes on the heels of growing interest in the district career in technical education pathways, as well as collegiate pathways which it instituted last school year.

Superintendent Karen Cheser said the district offered around 1,700 concurrent enrollment credits last year.

In a later interview, Polis praised the district for the construction of the building and its decision to pursue more experiential learning opportunities.

“Durango is really helping lead the way along with Longmont and Cherry Creek. There's a few areas in the state where you're really looking at a student's future rather than just getting them to a high school diploma,” Polis said.

The governor also said he felt that experiential learning and career pathway models were the direction that public education is headed.

“That's what's so exciting about career technical education pathways, and the fact that students are really thinking about what comes next. Whether it's community college or college or whether it's directly into a career,” Polis said.

The 12,000-square-foot building was funded through Bond Issue 4A, which allocated $90 million to Durango School District 9-R for facility upgrades, and was designed by Anderson Mason Dale Architects.

The building will cost about $10 million and will feature the use of natural light through skylights. It is two stories with a makerspace, breakout rooms and a pitch room upstairs. The bottom floor will include a common area, a cafe and rooms for students to collaborate.

With the new space, students along with the assistance of their teachers will be able to offer free electrocardiogram screenings. CTE health sciences teacher Kyle Montgomery said the school has been offering these screenings, but will be able to do so on a larger scale.

“We received a grant through the PTO to screen all of the teachers,” Montgomery said during the tour.

This will allow students to screen staff members as part of the health sciences pathway. The district partnered with the nonprofit group Who We Play For, so the students could be trained for the screenings.

DHS senior Bailey Noonan said the upstairs conference rooms on the southwest side of the buildings can be adjusted to mimic clinical rooms. Additionally, members of DHS Future Health Professionals, formerly known as Health Occupations Students of America, will assist Noonan in the screenings.

Noonan recently received her Emergency Medical Technician certificate from Upper Pine River Fire Protection District.


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