By DR. KURT STEINHAUS
• It is All about the Students
Ballots for the Los Alamos Public Schools bond election were mailed to voters Jan. 3, 2017. They are due in the County Clerk’s Office no later than 7 p.m. Jan. 24. The LAPS bond is the first question on the two-item ballot. This is a continuation bond that does not increase tax rates.
All funds raised through the bond election are for school facilities to support student learning. Because of New Mexico law, the only public school funds that can be raised locally are for “bricks and mortar” and equipment.
Why should we renew the bond?
- First, scheduled projects are badly needed. Many of the original school buildings in Los Alamos were built in the 1950s and 60s. With support from residents in Los Alamos and White Rock, matching dollars from the State of New Mexico, and careful management of construction funds, three of our schools have been remodeled – High School, Middle School, and Aspen Elementary School. Promise made – promise kept! This bond election raises funds for the next round of school buildings and major maintenance in White Rock and on the hill.
- Second, residential real estate values are substantially improved with high-quality schools.
- Third, research shows that better facilities translate into improved student and staff well-being and achievement.
- Fourth, improved schools add to the vitality of our beautiful community.
- Fifth, good schools attract prospective businesses and employees and ensure a strong workforce for Los Alamos National Laboratory, the County, the Los Alamos Public Schools, and local businesses.
- Sixth, rising maintenance costs will be significantly reduced.
- Seventh, renewal of the LAPS bond does not raise tax rates.
How many years are represented by this bond election? This bond ends after four years. Bonds were approved by Los Alamos County voters in 2009 and 2013 that helped fund major improvements to Los Alamos High School, the Middle School, and Aspen Elementary School. These completed projects were only possible with support from staff, parents, business leaders, and community members.
How will the 2017 bond funds improve school facilities? Chamisa and Pinon Elementary Schools will receive funds needed for replacement of the heating and cooling systems, protective maintenance, and energy efficiency. At Mountain Elementary, the funds will address safety issues by enclosing the 200 Wing and hallway to the 100 Wing, improve access to restrooms, and update the old Nurse’s Office. The roof at Mountain Elementary School is also scheduled for replacement. Scheduled improvements at Los Alamos High School include replacement of boilers in E Wing, Smith Auditorium, and Griffith Gymnasium. In addition, a Field House will be built at Sullivan Track & Field for safety shelter, bathrooms, concessions, and the athletic trainer. If the bond passes, LAPS plans a major rebuild and remodel at Barranca Mesa Elementary School. This includes replacing 60% of all classrooms, removing all portables, and significantly increasing energy efficiency.
Serving 436 students in the 2016-2017 school year, Barranca Mesa Elementary School is over 50 years old. This aging structure is costly to maintain and has become a financial burden to the schools and the community. Officials from the state Public Schools Facilities Authority have ranked Barranca as the school in Los Alamos most in need of a remodel and safety improvements. The design process began this fall and construction will begin approximately one year from approval of the bond.
Voting for this bond will maintain the current tax rate and allow LAPS to reach the goal of raising $13 million for our students. The LAPS Board of Education hopes to continue this much needed and important capital improvement program for students. We have the opportunity to build our future by focusing on student-centered learning environments.
“Let’s help our community invest in the future for LAPS students and families!” School Board President Jim Hall said.