Española School Board mulls over New Athletic Facilities Project

Espanola School Board President Pablo Lujan (left) sits next to Superintendent Eric Martinez (right) during the Sept. 21 school Board meeting at Carlos Vigil Middle School. The School Board heard presentations from staff regarding upgrades to athletic facilities at Espanola Valley High School. Valley Daily Post photo

Española School Board mulls over New Athletic Facilities Project

By Ariel Carmona Jr.      

The Española School Board met twice last week, at a special meeting Sept. 19 and for their regulary scheduled meeting Wednesday night to discuss capital outlay projects and to hear updates from staff in regards to a new student information system and security proposals districtwide.

The bulk of the discussion of Wednesday night’s meeting dealt with proposed upgrades to the athletic fields at  Española Valley High School with some members of the Board questioning the timing and funding for the proposed project, while others advocating the need to update the facilities.

Board members heard a presentation from Bosque Farms based Lone Mountain Contracting, Inc. Representatives from the 44-year-old company said they were one of the few contractors in the state that build their own tracks in house.

In addition to a proposed eight lane track and field facility, Distric officials are also considering spending more than $1 million to install new synthetic turf fields, new sports lighting for Espanola Valley High School’s football field and other improvements to their athletic facilities.

Lone Mountain General Manager Tessie Emond said the company can offer the District a plan to finance the $2.5 million dollar project. There is a down payment of $350,000 and annual payments would cost close to $400,000 a month.

Additionally, she said the down payment minimum can be adjusted in consideration of an early balloon payment within the first six months of the financing period.

“It’s really flexible and it’s going to depend on what the school has available and what the needs of the school are,” she said. “This is something we offer if we know there is a facility that needs repair right away, and that within a period of time the school will be able to fund the remainder of the work.”

Members of the community and some members of the Board questioned the timing of the proposed project given the financial climate in the state and the precarious funding parceled out to public schools by the New Mexico Legislature.

Salazar asked Superintendent Eric Martinez why administrators did not consider a complete renovation of Chimayo Elementary instead, since the school has been ranked by the Public School Facilities Authority (PSFA). The PSFA ranks the more than 700 schools in the state using a system designed based on the needs of individual schools.

Board President Pablo Lujan said even though the school is ranked 36, the agency is not currently funding that particular school.

Martinez said Velarde and Abiqui Elementaries have come up in the PSFA rankings and are being considered for matching funds from the state. He said since those schools have risen to the top 100 rankings, it’s not in the District’s best interest to make minor repairs and risk moving school further down the ranks, thus making them less likely to get matching funding.

“You end up paying 100 percent of the bill instead of 60 percent,” he said.

PSFA officials did not return calls to elaborate further on the facility rankings and how they are determined to impact school districts’ funding.

Emond said once the company gets the green light, they can begin pulverizing the existing track asphalt and base and get the work done in a short amount of time, barring weather constraints.        

Salazar said a loan at 7 percent to fund the athletic facilities is quite pricey.

“I don’t even know where we would get the money to fund that.”

The Board member said she would rather see the money spent on a new Chimayo or Acalde school facility. “Of course sports is important,” she said, “I was against putting in new basketball goals. It’s ridiculous, we have perfectly functioning basketball goals. They want to keep up with the Joneses, they want our schools to be like UNM I guess, and right now we don’t have the funding for it.”

Adan Cordova, facilities manager at Espanola School District addresses the Board at their Sept. 21 meeting at Carlos Vigil Middle School. Cordova gave the Board and community members present an update on school facilities including a plan to renovate Velarde Elementary School. Valley Daily Post photo

Community members and teachers from Velarde Elementary and other District school sites were on hand Wednesday to support the approval a proposed contruction project to renovate the elementary school.

The Board unanimously approved the Velarde renovation project. Facilities Manager Adan Cordova said the building systems at the school itself won’t be renovated, but the District is looking to repair heating, HVAC systems, roofing, windows, exterior and interiors, in order to meet the current student enrollment.

Cordova said the blueprints as designed back in 2011, the last time the Board considered renovating the school, had been 100 percent completed and the next step was to revisit with the PSFA and specify the size of the school based on current enrollment. He said he estimates the funding would not be available until the third quarter of 2018.

He said the state requires the school District to have their match of whatever amount is deemed the overall cost of the renovation will be after the completion of a system analysis report. The District must have their portion of the funding in hand (36 percent) before applying to the state for matching funds which he said total 64 percent.

Board Vice President Lucas Fresquez said the last time the District worked on their facilities master plan they were told they had more than 100 percent of repairs. He said 28 dollars worth of bond money funded various projects.

“I think we stretched that pretty far,” he said. “We have the new Fairview Elementary, the new Alcalde, a new Los Ninos Kindergarten, and we are going to have a brand new administration building. That’s probably well over $50 or $60 million of investment that we spent with our 28 million dollars.”

In other matters, the Board heard from Assistant Superintendent Myra Martinez who said staff were working on 40 day enrollment reports and training on the new student information system which will allow parents to access information about students via an online portal.

Superintendent Martinez also reported that hiring in house security will cost the district $111,800 including benefits compared to $380,000 last year when it contracted with a private firm to handle security for the high school and middle school.