The growing popularity of outside-the-box high school education is leading two Pikes Peak region school districts to expand programming.

Pikes Peak Early College in School District 49 will break ground Thursday on a $5 million, 20,000-square-foot addition on the campus it shares with Springs Studio for Academic Excellence at 6113 Constitution Ave.

“With our rapid enrollment growth, all of our schools in D-49 are overcrowded, and expanding blended learning means we’re able to serve kids at a fraction of what it would cost to build new buildings,” said Dave Knoche, executive principal for the Springs Studio and Pikes Peak Early College campus.

Blended learning combines at-home online lessons and assignments with on-site classes and perhaps community college or voc-tech classes thrown into the mix.

“People love the flexibility.” Knoche said.

Nine additional classrooms will open for the 2020 fall semester, duplicating the existing school building, which accommodates 430 Springs Studio students.

Pikes Peak Early College relocated this year to the site and has 185 students but can’t increase enrollment without more space, Knoche said.

Students also are embracing nontraditional learning in Colorado Springs School District 11. While enrollment has been declining districtwide for years, the Roy J. Wasson Academic Campus is bursting at the seams, said Executive Director Dan Hoff.

In the old Wasson High School building at 2110 Afton Way, the repurposed school that houses 10 programs is operating at 160% capacity, Hoff said.

Up to 1,500 students use the campus daily, he said, up from 900 students in 2013, when the district closed Wasson as a traditional high school under a restructuring plan.

As a result, the Nikola Tesla Education Opportunity School will move by August to the former Longfellow Elementary School, 1.3 miles away at 3302 Alpine Place. That building has housed Globe Charter School, which is looking for a new facility.

Moving Tesla’s 239 students to Longfellow will allow Tesla to increase to 280 students and also will enable other programs staying at the Wasson campus to spread out and add more students, Hoff said. Tesla will vacate 22 classrooms at Wasson.

“Think a little like a charter school and a little like a junior college” and you’ve got the Roy J. Wasson Academic Campus, he said.

The site is open 14 hours a day and offers four high school diploma programs and six programs encompassing adult and family education, digital school, night school, literacy and early childhood development.

“It’s boutique schooling, and kids are like, ‘Absolutely,’” Hoff said.

School District 49’s expansion also will make room for the Falcon Homeschool program, Knoche said, which is at the Falcon Legacy Campus and also provides on-site learning. About 100 home-school students will join the campus in August, for 750 students spanning the three programs.

“We’re going to be one big, happy, inclusive environment that provides tons of opportunities for kids,” Knoche said. “We’ve reached a place where we are stagnant based on our space, so doubling our space will allow us to get bigger,” he said, and whittle down waiting lists.

In six years, the redesigned Wasson campus has become known for tailoring education to meet students’ needs, Hoff said.

“This isn’t students’ second choice or a replacement choice; this is their first choice,” he said. “It’s also not credit recovery, but credit acceleration.”

District 11 will use district funds to pay for minimal remodeling at Wasson, and District 49 is paying off the existing building at the Springs Studio campus and will apply the savings to payments for the new building, officials said.

Contact the writer: 719-476-1656.

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