Legislatively, there's good news coming out of Denver for public schools. Not only has Gov. John Hickenlooper increased funding by more than $200 million for K-through-12 education in his 2013-14 proposed budget, but should Amendment 64 actually move forward, the first $40 million in taxes annually will be earmarked for school capital construction.
Of course, money aside, local schools — both public and private — continue to innovate and grow, offering up more options then ever when it comes to how and where learning happens. Whether choosing to cross districts or the interwebs, students more and more can tailor their experience to their interests or needs.
Our annual K-through-12 guide provides families with a place to become familiar with the basics locally, and also to start thinking beyond the neighborhood school, if they're so inclined.
This issue is assembled with George Bernard Shaw's words in mind: "What we want is to see the child in pursuit of knowledge, and not knowledge in pursuit of the child."
— Kirsten Akens
Click here for a full table of contents.
The Independent contacted each district and private school listed below for basic information and a sense of what's new this year. A few locations did not respond to our calls; in these situations, we have simply included their contact information and basic details culled from their websites. If we've missed a school, please let us know at email@example.com. (Editor's note: This listing was updated Nov. 26 to reflect that the Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind is a public facility.)
K-12: Area School Districts
Colorado Springs School District 11
1115 N. El Paso St., 520-2000, d11.org
Student pop.: 29,071
District 11 is Colorado Springs' largest and most centrally located school district, and aims to help students grow and develop in a global society. New this year, students at Wasson and Mitchell high schools can enroll in a joint curriculum: Bused between the two schools, students can now take courses at both. "Overall, it's good to give kids more offerings," says Devra Ashby, public information officer. Already more than 50 students are taking part. Elsewhere in the district, the Galileo School of Math and Science is transforming its old tennis courts into a one-of-a-kind urban garden, though they're still looking for a community partner to help them complete the project. Their geodesic dome greenhouse already supplies the school cafeteria with produce.
Academy School District 20
1110 Chapel Hills Drive, 234-1200, asd20.org
Student pop.: 24,000
Forward-thinking and motivated, District 20 is known for high student achievement. This year it is one of only two large districts in Colorado to be "Accredited with Distinction" by the Colorado Department of Education based on TCAP (the new version of CSAP) scores. New for 2012, D-20 expanded School in the Woods, a 13-year-old program that gives fourth graders the opportunity to study for one school year as naturalists within a "living classroom." Nanette Anderson, public information officer, says, "It's a very popular program," and now offers space to 78 students instead of just 52.
Falcon School District 49
10850 E. Woodmen Road, Falcon, 495-1100, d49.org
Student pop.: 15,000
This year, District 49 was recognized as a "District of Innovation" by the Colorado Board of Education. Always trying to meld new technologies into the curriculum, the district last month opened the Falcon Virtual Academy, a blended learning facility. The school, which now enrolls 400 students, offers an alternative to the stereotypical school day. At the Virtual Academy, students take most of their classes online and through video conferencing. District 49 has also expanded its International Baccalaureate Program to include all grades. "It's a rigorous, internationally known program," says Stephanie Meredith, public information officer. If students take enough IB classes in high school, they can gather enough credits to be an entire year ahead in college.
Harrison School District 2
1060 Harrison Road, 579-2000, hsd2.org
Student pop.: approx. 11,147
Located in the southeastern part of the city, Harrison is the only district in Colorado Springs to have a pay-for-performance plan for paying teachers and administrators. Aiming to boost graduation rates, the district pays staff based on student assessments, and just received a $4 million dollar grant from the Department of Education to help fund this program. Meanwhile, with the help of University of Colorado at Colorado Springs physics professor Anatoliy Glushchenko, Carmel Middle School just became one of the only middle schools in the country to teach physics at the middle school level.
Widefield School District 3
1820 Main St., Colorado Springs, 391-3000, wsd3.org
Student pop.: approx. 9,300
District 3, located in southern El Paso County, is home to some innovative educational approaches, especially with its online program, D3 My Way. This program allows teachers, students and parents to customize their school day, mixing online core academics with on-site electives and off-hour tutors. Now enrolling over 150 students, the program is offered K-12 and "helps kids who, for whatever reason, don't excel in a traditional classroom," says James Drew, director of communications. The district also offers free full-day kindergarten, a program that traditionally comes with a fee in many other districts.
Fountain-Fort Carson School District 8
10665 Jimmy Camp Road, Fountain, 382-1300, ffc8.org
Student pop.: 7,702
With nearly 70 percent of students coming from military homes, the Fountain-Fort Carson district supports a very mobile population. The district employs integrationists who assist students with acclimating to the environment, and interventionists who work with students academically, one of the few local districts to offer this type of help.
Lewis-Palmer School District 38
146 Jefferson St., Monument, 488-4700, lewispalmer.org
Student pop.: 6,600
"Accredited with Distinction" by the Colorado Department of Education, Monument-based Lewis-Palmer District 38 prides itself on meeting its students' needs, whether those include special education or programs for gifted and talented students. The high school graduation rate here tops 95 percent, and about 85 percent of graduates continue to college. New for this year, the school offers a Homeschool Enrichment Academy once a week that enrolls about 50 students. It helps "expand the resources available to homeschool instructors," says Robin Adair, community relations manager. Among the offerings are music, lab science, physical education and experiential activities.
Cheyenne Mountain School District 12
1775 LaClede St., 475-6100, cmsd12.org
Student pop.: 4,529
Located in southwestern Colorado Springs, Cheyenne Mountain is one of the top districts in Colorado in academic achievement. Cheyenne Mountain Junior High was named 2012 Colorado School of the Year, and runner-up for best nationally, by the National Association of Middle School Principals. Superintendent Walt Cooper says this is thanks to "a great combo of outstanding school climate and high student achievement and growth," also evidenced in the 90-percent college attendance rate for CMHS graduates.
Manitou Springs School District 14
405 El Monte Place, Manitou Springs, 685-2024, mssd14.org
Student pop.: 1,507
Manitou is renowned for working with the emotional, social, academic and creative sides of each student, and its small size encourages the development of strong connections among individuals. The district tries to avoid static learning — and they mean it: iPads have been issued to all students in fifth through 12th grades — and works to promote real-world skills. New this year, they expanded their iPad program to include high schoolers. The district's FAIM (Fine Arts Institute at Manitou) program has also grown, now offering 105 music lessons to grade-school students Monday through Thursday. Though there are program fees, FAIM lessons run cheaper than private options, with students paying just a little over $9 per class.
The Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind(functions as its own district)
33 N. Institute St., 578-2100, csdb.org
Student pop.: approx. 210 and responsible for more than 500 in the community
Tuition: CSDB is state-funded and provides tuition-free education. If a local student has been recommended by his or her school district, the district is responsible for transportation.
The school was created to provide education through innovative methods to students who are blind or have limited vision, or are deaf or struggle with hearing. The Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind offers services for children from birth all the way to age 21. Services are provided to students at the brick-and-mortar location in central Colorado Springs, in students' home districts, and through many outreach programs for students, school staff and families all over Colorado. No matter the location of the program, says Superintendent Carol Hilty, "CSDB retains skilled and talented staff members who strive for excellence and are deeply committed to providing quality services for all students." CSDB's staff is also known for creating and using innovative instructional strategies that assist all students in reaching their full potential.
Almost every local private school offers some type of financial assistance, and many either provide transportation or help coordinate carpooling options. When researching private schools, we recommend that you ask about these options.
Colorado Springs Christian Schools — K-12
4855 Mallow Road, 599-3553; 1003 Tamarac Pkwy., Woodland Park, 686-0706; cscslions.org
Student pop.: 800
Tuition: Varies based on grade level, ranging from $3,200 for half-day kindergarten to $8,200 for high school
Founded in 1971, Colorado Springs Christian Schools teach from a biblical perspective to accelerate students in their preparation for college. According to Erin Wilcox, associate superintendent of instruction, one of the newest changes to the school this year was the addition of 11 dual college credit courses. Students will be able to get college credit in classes like chemistry and leadership at Colorado Christian University, University of Denver, or Indiana Wesleyan University. Another newer program is taught half online and half on-site, available to students from sixth to 11th grade. Families choose which classes to take online and which at the school. Wilcox says that this is helpful for many families since it costs half the price of regular tuition.
The Colorado Springs School — Pre-K-12
21 Broadmoor Ave., 475-9747, css.org
Student pop.: 304
Tuition: Ranges from $6,150 for three-day kindergarten to $18,275 for upper school
Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, CSS began as an all-girls boarding school in 1962, but has come a long way from that point. The co-ed school now encourages students to gain a global perspective starting at a young age. Fifteen percent of upper school students are international students hailing from Cameroon, Angola, Brazil, China and Korea. According to communications director Jessica James, there are buses available to pick up students in all parts of the Colorado Springs area, Pueblo, and Woodland Park. Forty percent of families receive some kind of financial aid and there are many scholarships available to students as well.
Evangelical Christian Academy — Pre-K-12
2511 N. Logan Ave. (elementary), 634-7024; 4052 Nonchalant Circle South (secondary), 597-3675; ecaeagles.org
Student pop.: 310
Tuition: Ranges to a high of $7,455 for high school
Focused on biblically based education, ECA is the largest accredited classical and Christian school for pre-K through 12th grade in Colorado. Bob DeRuiter, principal of the upper school, says the school has upgraded technology and now has four SmartBoards in classrooms. Currently the administration is discussing what it means for the school to embrace classical teaching: DeRuiter describes it as "giving students the tools to learn instead of only giving them information." Students can also receive up to 11 or 12 dual college credits from Colorado Christian University. On the financial aid front, ECA works with families individually through the financial aid process, so that "no one is turned away because they can't afford tuition."
Fountain Valley School — 9-12
6155 Fountain Valley School Road, 390-7035,fvs.edu
Student pop.: 236
Tuition: Board $46,300; day students $25,100.
Founded in 1930, FVS is a college prep day and boarding school — 68 percent of the student body reside on campus — where motivated students can be challenged in a close-knit, diverse community. The Global Scholars program gives students a unique opportunity to develop an international perspective through rigorous course work and a focus on global understanding, which culminates in a capstone project and final semester of independent study. FVS also has a mountain campus — located in the Buena Vista/Salida area — that allows students and faculty to escape to the Arkansas River Valley for retreats and school outings. The school values open-mindedness, curiosity, courage, self-reliance and compassion, creating a community that emphasizes a lifelong love of challenge and learning.
Hill Springs Learning Center — 1-8
2776 Janitell Road, 576-3840, hillsprings.org
Student pop.: 24
HillSprings Learning Center specializes in programs for students with learning disabilities or attention deficit disorder, including an after-school reading program and certified tutors. Director Charlie Tye says that the students come to the school for a three-hour intensive — reading, writing, math, etc. — in the morning and then go to their regular schools in the afternoon. Her goal is to train kids for one to two years so that they will be prepared to keep up and succeed in mainstream schools. About 40 percent of students receive scholarships, and the school writes grants and seeks donations in order to help students maintain their scholarships. HillSprings' outreach efforts are expanded further by its five-week summer program for students who cannot afford year-round tuition, and its training programs that equip teachers around the Pikes Peak Region to better serve their students with learning disabilities.
Pikes Peak Academy — 9-12
5590 N. Nevada Ave., 473-5745,pikespeakacademy.net
Student pop.: approx. 50
Tuition: Sliding scale based on family income and family size
Running August through June, Pikes Peak Academy will enroll students at any time during the year. PPA is a private, alternative Christian high school that focuses on students at risk for dropping out. PPA uses individualized academic instruction and concentrates on renewing confidence and hope for students who have struggled to succeed in public school. Registrar Kristin Becker says that the school is academically focused but also has a work-study program where students are able to get internships on or off campus. Because of its small size, staff members say students never go unnoticed, and along with their academic work, they have time to do fun structured activities because the school day ends at noon. Students are mostly recommended to PPA through a referral from their past school or a current PPA family.
Pikes Peak Christian School — Preschool-12
5905 Flintridge Drive, 598-8610, pikespeakchristianschool.org
Student pop.: 375
Tuition: Ranges from $3,357 for preschool to $6,498 for high school
Pikes Peak Christian School is a coeducational school for children 2 years old through high school, where kids can get a "quality, Bible-based education taught by Christian teachers in a safe and compassionate environment." There is a day-care on the premises, and preschoolers through fifth graders get weekly instruction in computers, physical education, Spanish, library, music, and art in addition to core curriculum. Similar courses are offered as electives for middle and high school students, who also have the opportunity to participate in athletics, such as volleyball, football, basketball, wrestling, track/cross country, cheerleading and baseball. The school "strives to identify and develop the academic, social and spiritual potential of each student in partnership with God and family."
St. Mary'sHigh School — 9-12
2501 E. Yampa St., 635-7540, smhscs.org
Student pop.: 335
Established in 1885, St. Mary's strives to be "Southern Colorado's leader in educating a diverse student body to become moral leaders for tomorrow." Highlights of the 2012 school year include the addition of their eighth Advanced Placement course and an expanding international program, says president John Kraus. Its scores in academics consistently exceed state and national averages — about 89 percent of students pass their AP tests and the average ACP score is 25.9. According to Kraus, "last year's graduates [a class of 65] received over $6.9 million in college scholarships and seven students were honored by the National Merit Scholars." Along with an impressive academic record, St. Mary's is growing its international program and is currently hosting upper-school students from China, Brazil and Austria. Next year Kraus hopes to begin a Mandarin Chinese program in partnership with Palmer High.
Springs Adventist Academy — K-8
5410 Palmer Park Blvd., 597-0155, saaschool.org
Student pop.: 25
Tuition: Sliding scale based on family income; tops out at $350 per month.
SAA is a kindergarten-through-eighth-grade institution with a Christian academic program. This year the school added a computer lab for basic typing and higher-level computer classes. There are more-developed art and music classes than in years past, but even with the addition of new programs, the school maintains a very small student-to-teacher ratio. According to office manager Michelle Ruffin, parents are required to do 20 hours of community service a year while students continuously work on community projects throughout the academic year.
Unified Catholic Schools — Pre-K to 8
Multiple locations, ucsppr.org
Student pop.: Varies by school
Tuition: Varies by school, but approximately $4,544 for Catholic students; $5,574 for non-Catholic students; pre-K rates charged by the month.
The Unified Catholic Schools system includes six locations: Corpus Christi (Pre-K to 8, 2410 N. Cascade Ave., 632-5092); Divine Redeemer (Pre-K to 8, 901 N. Logan Ave., 471-7771); Holy Apostles Preschool (4925 N. Carefree Circle, 591-1566); Pauline Memorial (Pre-K to 8, 1601 Mesa Ave., 632-1846); St. Peter (124 First St., Monument, 481-1855); and Ave Maria in Parker. Each works within the same mission — to "form each student into a disciple of Jesus Christ" — but has separate administration and programming emphasis. For instance, during principal Sandy Rivera's first year, Pauline Memorial has not only become accredited with no deficits for the first time in 10 years, but the school is implementing "21st century skills" into their curriculum, which basically means that students learn how to think critically, through a focus on problem solving. Rivera says that with this set of unique thinking skills and the ability to work in groups on projects, students will be able to prepare themselves to work in the 21st century world. Rivera also brought in a PBIS — Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports — program, which rewards children for good/positive behavior. Teachers award students with "saint slips" that can be used at each month's end at the "Saint Shop" where students trade in slips for prizes.