LAPS Press Release – School Board Update

The Los Alamos School Board met on Thursday, Aug. 27 for a work session. All board members were in attendance. In addition, over 300 parents, students, staff and community members viewed the meeting via Zoom.

The meeting began with a recognition of outgoing board member Julia Baker who is relocating to Spokane, WA. Board members also recognized Los Alamos High School juniors Elizabeth Frost and Nina Nzekwe, both named winners of the New York Times Summer Reading Contest.

The School Board then thoroughly reviewed options for a possible transition from 100% remote learning to the hybrid model, taking into consideration the recent health order from Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham which had just been published during her press conference earlier in the day. Board members also heard from students, staff and parents that both supported and opposed the transition. 

“Any decision we make will not please everyone,” said board member Dawn Jalbert. Board members considered the importance of transparency and criteria they had set at a previous meeting, data from recent parent and staff surveys, as well as guidance from the New Mexico Public Education Department (NM PED) and the Department of Health. In the end, the board unanimously approved all five elementary schools moving to the hybrid model starting Sept. 21, followed by the middle school on Oct. 5 and the high school on Oct. 19. 

The board next approved a phased reentry for athletic practices for golf, volleyball and cross country teams and other activities at the high school and middle school. The reentry guidelines are in alignment with the New Mexico Athletic Association and NM PED.

The board then approved funding from Los Alamos County in the amount of $476,211 to cover the costs for online learning software and outside learning structures. The funding request had been unanimously approved by the County Council during their meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 25. With the establishment of the Los Alamos Online Academy and Topper Virtual Academy, there was a need for a learning management system; however, funds for this purchase were not part of the school budget for this year. 

Purchase of shade structures for all school sites will significantly increase student and staff safety and expand classroom space by up to 30%. In addition, the spaces can be used after school and on weekends by community members. “The schools are community assets,” said President Ellen Ben-Naim. “The purchase of these structures is advantageous for many sectors of the community who use our facilities.”

Melanie Colgan was unanimously appointed to the school board to represent District 4. She will begin her duties effective Sept. 1. She replaces Julia Baker, who served on the board for eight months.

The board then approved Consolidated Builders of New Mexico, LLC for the Pajarito Complex construction project. This $1 million project consists of the removal and replacement of roughly 6,800 square feet of window wall with steel frame, stucco and storefront. Rooms will be painted, flooring replaced and conduit for fire alarms provided. The project will be constructed in four phases with anticipated completion in June 2021. The space is currently leased by Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Board members Christine Bernstein and Dawn Jalbert will serve on a committee to review the LAHS student liaison applications for the 2020-2021 school year. Three juniors are selected to join the three seniors, Logan Black, Shena Han and Audrey Nolen, serving a second term to represent students at school board meetings. The final selections will be presented at the next meeting. It was noted that there are a record number of student liaison applications this year. 

The board concluded the evening with a first reading of three policies presented by Assistant Superintendent Jennifer Guy. These include a new policy regarding emergency administration and temporary suspension of policies and regulations, as well as a policy on employee participation in political activities and employee speech. Guy noted that in light of the upcoming campaign season, now was a good time to review these policies and ensure that there are clear guidelines in place. Recommended changes will be made and brought back to the Board for a second reading. 

The next regular meeting will be on Tuesday, Sept. 8. The next work session will be on Thursday, Sept. 24.