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2017 Education Year End Wrap Up

on December 28, 2017 - 10:07am
A double rainbow shines over Los Alamos High School. Photo by Amy Casson
Los Alamos Daily Post

It was an interesting year for education in Los Alamos. Here are some highlights:

UNM-Los Alamo 1 Mill Levy And Los Alamos Public Schools Bond Issue Pass

The UNM-LA 1-Mil Levy passed 3,928 to 2,221 and the LAPS General Obligation Bond passed 4,912 to 1,322 Jan. 24. The LAPS bond passed with 79 percent of the vote, the highest ever recorded in a school bond election. UNM-LA has been suffering from dwindling state support for higher education. Prior to the election, Los Alamos ranked last in financial support received from its community through property taxes. The largest share of the LAPS bond will be used in a major rebuild and remodel of Barranca Mesa Elementary school. In addition, Chamisa, Mountain and Pinon Elementary Schools will receive funds for needed repairs, along with other facilities projects.

Debate Over Science Education Standards Was Intense

Scientists from Los Alamos Laboratory and the Los Alamos School Board joined with many others around the state to protest the New Mexico Public Education Department (PED) proposed changes to the New Mexico Science Education Standards, which are at odds with the Next Generation Science Standards developed by a consortium of states and the National Academy of Sciences. PED backpedaled on some of its changes after a contentious public meeting in October, but opponents remain unsatisfied and continue to call for PED to adopt Next Generation.

Citizens Kick Off Effort To Found Charter School

A steering committee kicked off its effort to found the Polaris Charter School Dec. 1, with a well-attended public meeting. The group seeks to establish a sixth through eighth grade public charter school in Los Alamos. The group’s mission, according to the committee, is to establish a school that provides an enriching and emotionally grounded learning environment that inspires global citizenship in an interdependent world.

School Board Votes To Leave School Start Time As Is

In the culmination of a two-year study of school start times, the board approved a motion for no change next year to start and end times in a 3-2 vote at its Dec. 12 meeting. The Board decision also encouraged the high school to explore the implementation of alternative schedules that allow for flexible start times.

Two Story Design Selected For Barranca Elementary

Los Alamos School Board voted 4-1 for the two-story design concept for Barranca Elementary Aug. 24. Board President Jenny McCumber, Vice-president Andrea Cunningham, Secretary Ellen Ben-Naim and Board Member Stephen Boerigter all said they were swayed by several factors, but especially by surveys that show school staff members in close proximity to each other are happier and more productive. The positive experiences of staff at Aspen Elementary with its two-story design also influenced these Board members. Construction is scheduled to begin this spring.

LAPS And County Partner On Duane Smith Auditorium Renovations

The County agreed to contribute $1.2 million toward the renovation of Duane Smith Auditorium in June. The school district is providing $925,000. Renovations are currently underway.

School Board Passes Resolution Not To Disclose Immigration Status Of Students

The Los Alamos School Board unanimously has passed a resolution stating that school personnel and contractors will not disclose information on the immigration status of students in October. No records on immigration status are currently kept, in accordance with federal law. Although the resolution stirred up some controversy in the community, it represented no change to current school policy, its purpose being largely informational.

Los Alamos Students Send Books To Kenyan School Libraries

Los Alamos students spent months collecting books for school libraries in Kenya. A sendoff celebration for the African Library Project was held Nov. 28. A U-Haul truck was loaded by kids of all ages with boxes of books headed to Kenya for 12 school libraries. In all 14,400 books were packed for delivery.

LAPS Receives State Funding For Facility Upgrades At Mountain

The state Public School Capital Outlay Council approved funding for building upgrades at Mountain Elementary School in December. These funds are allocated through a pilot initiative called the Systems-Based Capital Outlay program that is designed to help New Mexico school districts upgrade existing facilities. The money for LAPS will extend the usable life of Mountain Elementary School by 15 to 18 years. With local matching funds, the total project will be about $3.9 million.

Garcia Richard Named State House Education Chair

Stephanie Garcia Richard was chosen to lead the Education Committee in setting education policy and budgeting throughout the state in January 2017. She is the first representative from Los Alamos to chair a legislative committee.

Board Members Elected

Michelle Hall and David Sutton were re-elected and Sheila Schiferl was newly elected to the UNM-LA Advisory Board. Ellen Ben-Naim and Stephen Boerigter were elected in February to the Los Alamos School Board. The members and took up their duties March 10.