Editor's note: On Wednesday, Nov. 24, this document was updated to correct an omission.
The Pikes Peak region is home to nine public school districts, each of which offers preschool through high school education via a variety of models. While you may choose public education for your child, that doesn't necessarily mean you just have to send him or her to your neighborhood school, or even your neighborhood district. Check each district's website for "Choice" offerings. Deadlines to enroll your student in a school outside of your neighborhood range from November to March (depending on the district) each year for the following school year.
Colorado Springs School District 11
1115 N. El Paso St., 520-2000, d11.org
Student pop.: 28,789
District 11, the city's largest and most central district, has in the past few years emphasized teaching students how to thrive in a global society, whether that means learning foreign languages or studying different cultures. D-11 teachers also want students to know about the city and how to get involved. High school "service learning" programs teach students how to identify a problem, research it and work to solve it. Among the district's numerous awards, it earlier this month earned recognition from the National School Boards Association as one of 10 large school districts in the U.S. that's best implementing technology district-wide. In September, it announced receipt of a $15 million grant to help 10 of its 60-plus schools switch to a compensation plan that ties teacher pay to student performance.
Academy School District 20
1110 Chapel Hills Drive, 234-1200, asd20.org
Student pop.: 23,136
Considered a top district by many locals, District 20 prides itself on a history that dates back to the days of log cabins. But the forward-looking philosophy in this north Colorado Springs district has yielded innovative programming, including a hands-on partnership with Imagination Celebration for elementary-school science. The strong motivation of D-20 students can be seen through the top-notch Colorado Student Assessment Program scores, accreditation with distinction (the highest level possible within the Colorado Department of Education's annual statewide accountability ratings), an International Baccalaureate program and highly competitive athletic programs. (Even the high school marching bands are perennial state champions and contenders.) In addition, an online high school and the Home School Academy serve those needing a non-traditional education to thrive.
Harrison School District 2
1060 Harrison Road, 579-2000, hsd2.org
Student pop.: approx. 11,150
Harrison is the first district in Colorado Springs and one of few in the nation that has adopted a wholesale pay-for-performance system of teacher compensation. Teachers and administrators have been working intensely to increase graduation rates, and now customize curriculum based on student assessments. The south Colorado Springs district attracts many unique programs that offer kids a chance to learn new skill sets; for instance, a "NASA Explorers" middle school focuses on science and technology. One school runs year-round, and another goes K through 8 to allow siblings of different ages to attend the same school. Strong foreign language programs in middle and high schools even offer instruction in Chinese at some sites.
Fountain-Fort Carson School District 8
10665 Jimmy Camp Road, Fountain, 382-1300, ffc8.org
Student pop.: 6,584
Located south of Colorado Springs in Fountain, near Fort Carson, District 8 serves a large military family population. Over the past few years, it’s received approximately $4.2 million in grants from the Department of Defense Education Activity fund to provide additional support to these families, as well as the larger community. This August welcomed the opening of a brand-new elementary school on Fort Carson — Weikel Elementary, named for Capt. Ian Weikel, a 1993 D-8 graduate who died while serving in Iraq in 2006. An addition to the high school is in the works, with an estimated completion date of February.
Cheyenne Mountain School District 12
1775 LaClede St., 475-6100, cmsd12.org
Student pop.: 4,496
Accredited with distinction by the state Department of Education, Cheyenne Mountain is home this year to the Colorado Middle Level Principal of the Year (Dr. Lori Smith, from Cheyenne Mountain Junior High) and the Colorado School Counselor of the Year (Mary Whitman, from Skyway Elementary). D-12 recently adopted new research-based curricula for both reading and math in all of its elementary schools. The southwest-based district's commitment to developing the whole student shows through Advanced Placement (AP) courses, a strong performing and visual arts program and 24 varsity sports. The high school has already won four state championships this fall in boys tennis, boys cross-country, girls cross-country and volleyball.
Falcon School District 49
10850 E. Woodmen Road, Falcon, 495-1100, d49.org
Student pop.: approx. 15,000
Falcon, which covers a huge geographic swath bumping up against northeast Colorado Springs, is focusing on "increasing and individualizing" student achievement. Traditional, charter and online schools provide different teaching styles. For those gifted students in grades 3 through 12, every D-49 school offers SOAR (Student Opportunities for Academic Richness) programs. D-49 schools also encourage "inquiry-based" learning through International Baccalaureate and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) programs. Career academies help students prepare for whatever path they may take after high school. Students learn profession-specific skills in areas including health sciences and engineering technology.
Lewis-Palmer School District 38
146 Jefferson St., Monument, 488-4700, lewispalmer.org
Student pop.: approx. 5,000
Lewis-Palmer caters to those looking for a safe environment to encourage lifelong learning. Highly ranked and accredited with distinction by the state Department of Education, Lewis-Palmer uses small learning communities as well as honors, Advanced Placement and college-level courses to personalize education and bring out the best in their students. Lewis-Palmer students beat the national average on high school AP tests by 20 percent. Gifted and Talented programs are available at every campus, and acclaimed music, arts and sports programs and other activities round out students' experiences.
Widefield School District 3
1820 Main St., Widefield, wsd3.org
Student pop.: approx. 8,500
More than half of District 3 students describe themselves as being part of a military family. D-3 has always been extremely proud of its military connections, with award-winning Junior ROTC programs at two high schools. On another note, it's the only school district in the state that owns and operates a park and recreation district. It offers a variety of educational options for parents to consider, including three focus elementary schools and the "D3 My Way" online program. Free full-day kindergarten programs in every school prove D-3's commitment to giving all children a head start on their education.
Manitou Springs School District 14
405 El Monte Place, Manitou Springs, 685-2024, mssd14.org
Student pop.: 1,419
Relationships. Rigor. Opportunity. Manitou Springs School District lives by its motto and aims to develop the entire child. R2O, as they call it, works with the emotional, social, academic and creative sides of each student. The small district values the interpersonal relationships created in its schools. Rigor in their curriculum develops the academic side, while extensive arts programs and many other opportunities feed students' creativity. The high school robotics team recently took 12th place in its second year of the national FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) competition. The organization expects about 2,200 teams to compete this year.