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It was a long-awaited project, one which some thought would never be finished. But following a series of false fire alarms and construction delays, not to mention a few other problems along the way, the students at Los Alamos High School finally have a new building, marking the end of an era.
The school hosted a ribbon cutting on Wednesday night to mark the official “opening” of the building, which cost $23 million, according to LAPS Chief Financial Officer John Wolfe.
Students have been occupying the building for a few weeks. An overflow crowd of school board members, LAHS personnel and members of the community attended the event.
In addition, several individuals involved in the planning stages of the project were in attendance including past school board members and former LAHS Superintendent Mary McLeod. Rounding out the crowd were former LAHS students and teachers and representative Matt Roybal from Congressman Ben Ray Luján’s office.
Following the presentation of the colors by the LAHS NJROTC, School Board President Melanie McKinley opened the ceremony and talked about how the plan came together thanks to the community, past school board members and McLeod.
LAHS Principal Sandra Warnock then took the podium and talked about the temporary buildings her staff had to endure as part of the construction process.
“I want to thank members of my administration team whose perseverance and presence of mind did much to help me maintain a sense of balance during the school construction process,” she said. “As we gather for today’s ribbon cutting, Los Alamos residents have much to be proud. You entrusted us with your money to build a new school. As you tour the new school this afternoon, I think you’ll be pleased with what you see.”
Board Vice President Kevin Honnell also thanked the community, committee and past board members for their efforts in helping to make the dream of a new building a reality, saying they were all “instrumental in bringing the building to fruition.”
“In a time in the biggest recession since the Great Depression, it would have been so easy to say no to bond issues. There was every reason to say ‘no, not now,’ but the community dug into their pockets to provide this building for you to work in,” he said. He also pointed out that with the new building facilities, hot meals (breakfast and lunch) will be offered to students for the first time in 20 years.
Following Honnell’s speech, LAHS Student Body President Kayla Suazo talked about her experience at LAHS and what she’s gained from being the student body president. “I encourage students and staff to give a little back of what they have been given and make a difference. This place is a clean slate …” she said.
LAPS Superintendent Gene Schmidt closed the ceremony, during which he mentioned the efforts of many to lay the foundation for a “truly magnificent learning center.”
“It wasn’t so long ago in the 1950s that we opened a state-of-the-art learning facility that people came from miles around to marvel at that sight,” he said. “With that new high school, a tradition of academic excellence grew. Los Alamos quickly became known as one of the finest high schools in the land.”
Schmidt also mentioned that the school had received the Bellamy Award by a joint act of Congress in 1973, as a testament to the school’s academic prowess. The flag had been long lost, but Schmidt said it was found during the demolition of E Wing and was placed in a time capsule and reburied in the wall of the new building.
At the conclusion of Schmidt’s speech, he and retired LAHS math teacher Jack Gehre, presented Warnock with a mailbox door. Schmidt explained that the door was from one of 30 mailboxes located in the hall of A Wing, next to the administration offices in the 1950s and 60s. “I present this to you as a reminder of those that have come before us,” Schmidt said.
Following the ribbon cutting, during which the LAHS band played the fight song, guests took a tour of the new building and were treated to refreshments.