Twenty Year Facilities Study Unveiled At School Board Meeting

Outgoing School Board members Kevin Honnell, Nan Holmes and Judy Bjarke-McKenzie show off their service awards. Photo by Bonnie J. Gordon/
The audience listens are Barranca Principal Bradford Parker shows off the achievements of his school. Photo by Bonnie J. Gordon/
Los Alamos Daily Post

Barranca Elementary Principal Bradford Parker shared his school’s achievements during Thursday’s Los Alamos School Board Work Session at his school.

When asked by Board Vice President Kevin Honnell for his recommendations to improve student success, Parker said a source of funds for software to help students prepare for standardized testing and resources of grades K, 1 and 2 were the most essential needs for his school.

“If I can get them in the early years, they stay on track,” Parker said.

Outgoing School Board Members Judy Bjarke-McKensie, Honnell and Nan Holmes were honored at this, their final meeting as board members.

“I challenge you to find a better board anywhere in the state,” Superintendent Gene Schmidt said, outlining the Board members many achievements and contributions.

Schmidt requested the Board create an architectural and landscape committee.

“I love this idea,” Honnell said. “Let’s tap into the enormous community commitment to beautify our campuses.” The entire board expressed support for the idea and instructed Schmidt to pursue ironing out the plan for discussion at the next Board Meeting.

Next on the agenda was discussion of L Wing Lease—the property being vacated by PEEC when it moves operations to the new Nature Center. The Robotics Club, which already rents space in L Wing and the Family Resource Center (FRC) are both interested in the space. Prior to the meeting, David Philips lead member of the High School Robotics Team and Susan Mack, director of the Family Resource Center met to talk about how the two organizations could work together to their mutual benefit.

The idea they put forward is for Family Resource to take over the PEEC space and the Robotics Club, which wants to expand into a Stem Education Center, take the space currently rented by the Family Resource Center. That space fits their needs better, Phillips said. Mack called the outdoor space at the PEEC site “a jewel” for their programs with young children. FRC needs more space and the PEEC site is larger than the space they currently rent from the School District. The outdoor bathrooms are a problem for the young kids served by RFC, but not a problem for the older kids served by his program, Phillips said.

School Board Member Jim Hall pointed out that the educational services provided by the Robotics Club and FRC “far exceed any rents that might be collected by the District for the two spaces. Schmidt and his staff will return to the Board with recommendations at a future meeting. The Board praised the two organizations for working together to find a solution to their space needs.

The 20 Year Facilities Study was next on the agenda. Honnell and Hall presented the findings of the 20 Year Facilities Study Committee. Natalie Diaz of the Public School Facility Authority (PSFA), which evaluated the Los Alamos Schools participated by telephone and participated on the Team.

School Board Member Jim Hall presents the 20 Year Facility Study at Thursday’s Work Session. Photo by Bonnie J. Gordon/

Matching funds are available through PSFA for the “100 worst” schools in the state. Three Los Alamos schools are on the list. Requests for funds are due March 20. A 42 percent match is available for schools on the “worst list.” An additional 42 percent of matching funds is available for school consolidation, meaning a school being rebuilt to consolidate two existing schools would be eligible for both sets of matching funds for a total of 84 percent of costs matched by PSFA.

Funds available from the District include G.O. bond funds, mill levy funds, and possibly property lease funds. The District could also conduct a tax referendum.

Barranca ranks 41 on the list and is in the worst condition, followed by Chamisa with a rank of 72 and Pinon at 78.

The cost of maintaining deteriorating buildings is an important driver to new construction, especially with the state matching funds, Hall said. Maintenance costs were $1,470,000 at Barranca over the past 10 years, Hall said. Repair costs to keep the buildings up to code will be 2,571,000 over the next 5-7 years and costs at Chamisa are similar he said. Costs for upcoming repairs at Pinon are even higher.

Based pm these factors the Team’s recommendation to the Board are:

  • Board buy-in and support of the District’s GO Bond funding program for capital improvements.
  • Concentrate reinvestment on projects eligible for 42 percent match.
  • Take Board action directing staff to petition PSCOC to commit to funding the replacement/renovation of EITHER Barranca or Pinon in March 2015.
  • Approve a wall to wall renovation of the LAHS Band/Music Wing to meet a previous commitment during the last Bond campaign.
  • Explore and obtain public input on consolidating elementary schools and design buildings that offer options for such actions in the future (larger Core incorporated into the design).

The Board will take up these recommendation at future meetings.

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