Velarde’s Fate Still Looms
By: Tarin Nix
Suspense has mounted for over a year about whether or not Velarde Elementary School would be open to students this school year. A recent decision has given some parents hope that their fight has ended but Española School Board members haven’t thrown in the towel, just yet.
After District Judge Jennifer Attrep, a Democratic Martinez-Appointee, heard testimony from Española School District staff and the Public Education Department (PED) Thursday, Aug. 7, she issued a ruling in favor of Secretary of Education Hanna Skandera and PED and overruled the Española School Board’s 2014 decision to close Velarde Elementary School. Attrep’s final ruling noted that Española Public Schools had not done their due diligence in showing how keeping the school open would cause financial difficulties to the tune of $500,000.
With the ink barely dry on Attrep’s motion to stay order, the Española School Board called an emergency meeting for Monday, Aug. 10 at Carlos F. Vigil Middle School. With all members in attendance Monday night, an executive session was called that lasted over an hour. Before leaving the regular meeting to discuss the closure, Ruben Archuleta noted to the almost nonexistent crowd, “why waste the time and money,” in regards to continuing to pursue closing Velarde Elementary.
After returning from executive session, President Pablo Lujan quickly opened the floor to motions and Vice President Lucas Fresquez moved to file a dismissal of the pending litigation and not pursue that case any further. By a 5-0 decision, the Board agreed to accept the judgment ordered by Judge Attrep. However, members weren’t done yet. Just as quickly as they accepted the final order, they voted 4-1, with Ruben Archuleta voting no, to instruct Superintendent Bobbie Gutierrez to resubmit the application for closure of Velarde Elementary School with a timeframe that would have students relocating to Alcalde Elementary School by the first of January 2016.
Vice President Lucas Fresquez noted, “This has been a very long process and some very difficult decisions have been made. I am confident that the Board will continue to make necessary decisions to create the best environment to educate and care for the students of the entire district.”
Some members feel confident that the issue that PED and Judge Attrep had with the previous administrations application will be resolved and thanks to the pro-bono work of the District’s attorney, they believe the minimum cost will outweigh the negative impact the school staying open will have on the entire District.
“Closing a school is the one decision School Board’s hope to avoid. We were given two options by the former administration. Close Velarde or close Alcalde. Obviously, both were horrible options but until Governor Martinez and Hanna Skandera are willing to give our District the proper funding, it is unfair for them to intervene on this issue,” expressed Board President Pablo Lujan.
The next special meeting is scheduled for Aug. 13 at 5:30 p.m. at Carlos F. Vigil Middle School.