Crisis Underway At Cariños Charter School In Española

Fearing a lock out, teachers, staff and parents stage a sit in beginning Friday and running through the holiday weekend at Cariños Charter School in Española. Photo by Carol A. Clark/

Teachers and supporters at Cariños Charter School in Española are fighting to keep their doors open. Photo by Carol A. Clark/

Staff Report

Fearing they will be locked out over the holiday weekend, teachers and staff at Cariños Charter School in Española have staged a sit in, taking shifts to ensure an around the clock presence inside the school.

The school was “red-tagged’ Tuesday in what school officials say is a ploy by their landlord – Espanola Public Schools – to force them out of their building at 116 Espinosa Ave., despite having a lease through 2016.

In a letter dated Aug. 27 to parents, guardians, students, teachers and staff, Cariños Chancellor Vernon Jaramillo said that folks from the Construction Industrial Division inspected the building Tuesday in the area where students of Cariños Charter School are housed. 

According to the letter, inspectors came out following complaints from parents of students in the Los Niños Kindergarten Center Program, which began sharing a portion of the building earlier this month. As a result of this inspection, the building has been “red -tagged” and the Construction Industrial Division ordered the building to be vacated by last Friday.

The inspectors claim that they found “violations” that constitute “unsafe conditions,” Jaramillo said in his letter. They claimed that there were problems in the building that included suspected “exposed wires, non-functional doorways, ceiling tiles, inadequate ventilation, suspected mold and asbestos, roof leaks and a heating system that doesn’t work that can be repaired given a reasonable time line. Apparently, “Wing A” had more problems.” These problems were predominantly noted in the wing where Los Niños Kindergarten Center is being housed.  “Wing B”, where the Cariños Charter School’s classes are held had minimal “violations.”  

The building’s gymnasium also was “red tagged” due to issues with electric circuits, Jaramillo said. 

“We have regular yearly inspections and none of these violations were ever noted,” he said. “Ironically, these violations had not been discovered in the past by previous fire marshals. We have occupied this building for the past seven years. Cariños has paid rent for the lease of this building to our landlords, The Espanola Public Schools. Cariños has paid approximately $1 million during these years of rent.  Española Public Schools also received bond monies to improve the property at our school, as they promised the taxpayers who voted for the bond. This money was never spent on improvements or building issues at the Cariños school building. As a landlord, Espanola Public Schools is responsible for the maintenance of the building and based upon the report from the NM Construction Industries Commission, Española Public Schools has failed to maintain and correct the identified code violations.”

Because of the holiday weekend, Española Public Schools could not be reached for comment.

“We have been informed through the Espanola Public School Master Plan for 2013-2017, created by (ARC) Architectural Research Consultants, Inc. through New Mexico Public Schools Outlay Council (NMPSOC) that this building has a Satisfactory Ranking (adequate) and was usable,” Jaramillo said. “Safety and health for all has always been our priority.”

Cariños Charter School is a School of Choice and the only Dual Language Program in Española. The school has an enrollment of 200 students from Kindergarten through 8th grade, Jaramillo said in his letter.

Jaramillo called on parents to “be patient, believe and stay firm with our school.”  He asked parents to keep their children home last Thursday and Friday and said those days will be counted as excused absences until a solution to the situation or a new location for the school can be found. 

“Homework will be assigned by our teachers, so our students can continue to reinforce academic skill during this time,” he said in his letter. “Please be patient, keep the vision of our school, know that we truly have your children’s best interest at heart, and together we will overcome this situation. Cariños employees will continue to work on a transition plan.”

Jaramillo said they have experienced similar difficulties before and continue to believe in the Cariños Dual Language Program. 

“We are working on a plan to appeal this decision with our legal remedies,” he said. “We plan find a new location by Tuesday, Sept.  2. We have been directed by the New Mexico Public Education Department to have a plan for our charter school’s relocation. Again, please be patient with us as a community in support of the only Dual Language Program in the Española Valley. This too, we will overcome!”

He urges parents and supporters to go see the governor, talk to their politicians, and offer prayers.

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