Public school districts
In 1990, Colorado passed the Public Schools of Choice Act, allowing students to attend schools outside their neighborhood, or even outside the district in which they live. Individual districts may have different choice procedures and 'windows'; see their websites for details.
Harrison School District 2
1060 Harrison Road, 579-2000, hsd2.org
Student pop.: approx. 10,700
Harrison School District 2 is tied up in Colorado Springs history, with its first classes held in 1874 at the Bates School on Circle Drive. (Colorado Springs was three years old at the time.) In the 21st century, District 2 has made national news with what chief of staff Christine Lyle calls "bold reform tactics that have raised graduation rates, ACT scores and TCAP scores." D2 keeps students in the southeastern part of the city working hard. Consistent with the 3- to 4-percent annual improvement rate on TCAP scores, Harrison met or exceeded the state average in 22 of 27 categories this year. Next up is a "new journey" to up the stakes for graduation rates: The district aims to see 90 percent of students graduate on time and ready for college and careers.
Widefield School District 3
1820 Main St., Colorado Springs, 391-3000, wsd3.org
Student pop.: approx. 9,400
"Pride, tradition and innovation" are the mainstays of Widefield School District 3, in southern El Paso County. The D3 My Way online program allows families to create customized curricula with both online and offline courses and extracurricular programs to break away from the traditional school day. This school year, D3 launched its "WideField of Dreams" motivational program, recognizing students doing interesting things in arenas ranging from sports to travel and meant to "promote student achievement outside of the classroom," says district spokesperson Samantha Briggs. District 3 offers "focused" schools at Widefield Elementary, Talbott Elementary and Pinello Elementary, designed to target education in the areas of performing and visual arts, math and science, and core knowledge and foreign language. Also worth noting: Widefield District 3 was the only district in Colorado named this spring to the "Best Communities for Music Education" list by the National Association of Music Merchants' NAMM Foundation.
Fountain-Fort Carson School District 8
10665 Jimmy Camp Road, Fountain, 382-1300, ffc8.org
Student pop.: 7,840
Aimed at developing "generations of world-class learners capable of being successful members of society," Fountain-Fort Carson School District 8 prioritizes small class sizes and highly qualified staff to supplement the challenging curriculum. The district offers its student population, 70 percent of whom are from military homes, some of the most comprehensive extracurricular opportunities available in the Pikes Peak region. It also employs integrationists who help students from military families acclimate to the environment. And it runs an intervention program to provide additional academic support through use of a multi-dimensional approach.
Colorado Springs School District 11
1115 N. El Paso St., 520-2000, d11.org
Student pop.: 28,395
Colorado Springs School District 11 offers a bevy of educational choices for K-12 families in the Pikes Peak region. The largest district in the city now offers an "Early College High School" program at the Roy J. Wasson Academic Campus, in which students earn an associate degree while completing their high school diploma — with no tuition charges. The program, now seating about 80 students in its first semester, awards guaranteed-to-transfer credits based on local college curricula, including those of Pikes Peak Community College, the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and Adams State University. Other non-traditional programs at the RJW campus provide students the opportunity to earn advanced credits in the health and sciences, hospitality and tourism, or automotive fields. D-11's 60 schools include International Baccalaureate programs for K-12, the area's only tuition-free, public Montessori school at Buena Vista Elementary, and full-time gifted classrooms for advanced students in Grades 3 through 8.
Cheyenne Mountain School District 12
1775 LaClede St., 475-6100, cmsd12.co.us
Student pop.: 4,600
Cheyenne Mountain is one of only three districts in the region that has been "Accredited with Distinction," and Newsweek and U.S. News and World Report have consistently ranked Cheyenne Mountain High School as one of the country's best. This is exemplified by the 90 percent college attendance rate for CMHS graduates. With the belief that "every person has worth and is entitled to be treated with dignity and respect," the Board of Education recently approved the formation of the gay/straight alliance club at CMHS, according to Superintendent Walt Cooper. The district prioritizes student empowerment and achievement, as well as personal and intellectual development. And outside the academic realm, the high school's athletic department pulled in five state championships in the 2012-13 school year.
Manitou Springs School District 14
405 El Monte Place, Manitou Springs, 685-2024, mssd14.org
Student pop: 1,480
Manitou Springs School District 14 is highly regarded locally, with more than a third of its student body "choice"-ing in from nearby school districts. Working to promote real-world skills with technology-driven instruction, D-14 works to keep students engaged with a 1:1 iPad program for Grades 5 through 12. New to this school year is the SMARTE (Science, Math, Art, Research, Technology and Engineering) program, a stand-alone curriculum designed for problem-solving with applied arts and sciences. The district's FAIM (Fine Arts Institute @ Manitou) program now offers after-school music, dance and visual arts classes. D-14 also opened a new on-campus dance studio for the 2013-14 school year to continue daytime dance classes, now including jazz, ballet and modern dance.
Academy School District 20
1110 Chapel Hills Drive, 234-1200, asd20.org
Student pop.: 24,400
For the fourth consecutive year, Academy District 20 is one of only two large districts in Colorado to be "Accredited with Distinction" by the Colorado Department of Education based on TCAP scores and academic growth. This year, Academy District 20 implemented its 1:1 iPad initiative, getting iPads in the hands of every student at Challenger Middle School, fifth-grade students at Mountain View Elementary, and eventually, every student at Pine Creek High School. These schools comprise the district's "technology strand," wherein 21st-century skills are integrated into academic curriculum. Meanwhile, the district continues to support the families of 161 students and 22 staff members who lost homes in the Black Forest Fire in June 2013: Edith Wolford Elementary, located in that area, is a new Care and Share food bank location where local residents can come to pick up food staples twice a week.
Lewis-Palmer School District 38
146 Jefferson St., Monument, 488-4700, lewispalmer.org
Student pop.: approx. 6,100
Lewis-Palmer School District 38 is the only district in the state to be recognized on the Advanced Placement Honor Roll for four consecutive years, and the only district in El Paso County to make the list in 2013. "In addition to our exceptional academic success, we emphasize educating the whole child," says Superintendent John Borman on the district's website, noting a focus on arts, athletics and multiple extracurricular opportunities. Lewis-Palmer has received "Accredited with Distinction" recognition every year since the designation was established by the state Board of Education. Servicing northern El Paso County, it takes pride in its small community setting, while offering exceptional academic achievement in traditional schools, and its home school enrichment academy.
Falcon School District 49
E. Woodmen Road, Falcon, 495-1100, d49.org
Student pop.: 19,000
District 49 continues to enhance its list of exceptional schools, offering K-12 International Baccalaureate programming, one-to-one student technology initiatives, and concurrent enrollment with colleges and universities. Last year, District 49 was recognized as a "District of Innovation" by the Colorado Board of Education, allowing it to debut certain ideas and practices outside of usual state and local restrictions. Even before that, it had opened Falcon Virtual Academy, integrating a technology-driven curriculum to engage "the 21st century learner." At the Virtual Academy, with around 500 students enrolled, classes are taught with a blended approach of online offerings and individualized in-classroom opportunities. District 49 also has expanded its International Baccalaureate program to include all grades. If students take enough IB classes in high school, they can gather sufficient credits to be an entire year ahead in college.
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
The Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind is state-funded and provides tuition-free education. Sitting on 37 acres of land in central Colorado Springs, it serves students from birth to age 21 who are blind or have limited vision, or are deaf or hard of hearing. The school uses innovative strategies to assist students and bolster their success inside and outside of the school environment. Emphasizing academics as well as social and emotional development, CSDB provides services at the school, in students' home districts, and through many outreach programs in the area. According to 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."