Aspen school renovations progressing at steady pace

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By Tris DeRoma

 Recently, Superintendent of Schools Gene Schmidt, Aspen Elementary Principal Kathryn Vandenkieboom and others took a tour of Aspen Elementary School to see how the $12.4 million renovation of the school is progressing.
The tour included the school’s new cafeteria, the administration area, the music room, the art room and perhaps the most anticipated part of the project, the school’s main hallway, a popular feature from the old school that helped several generations of Los Alamos residents create long lasting bonds with their teachers and made school a fun place to be.
“The one thing the school wanted to retain was the hallway,” said Herb McClean, the construction coordinator for Los Alamos Public Schools. “The kindergartners would come, and they would have to walk down that long hallway to their classroom at the end. After being here for a year, they got to know the other teachers and they got to know them, so as they would really know the teachers as they moved back up the hallway as they progressed through the grades.”
There will be 14 classrooms on the first floor of the hallway and 15 on top.
According McLean, the administration area, the music room and the art room are almost complete. All that’s left is the flooring and the ceilings. McLean and others on the tour gave a move-in date of perhaps October or November of this year.
One of the big differences residents won’t notice however is that the new school will have a steel-framed structure, whereas the old school had a wood-framed structure. The walls will be better insulated, as will the roof, which should keep the school cool in summer and warm in winter.
“It will be well insulated, but we will also have sensors controlling how much fresh air to bring in,” McLean added.
The four portables as well as the ‘cottage” classroom at the school will be absorbed into the new structure. The school will be two-stories high, and also feature the latest in electrical and technological wiring, The Internet will be provided through “Redi Net”, an Internet service provider that specializes in supplying high-speed, fiber-based Internet access to municipal buildings and schools.
The building also has two main architectural features designed for winter, which is usually a long season in northern New Mexico. One of those features is a separate gym and cafeteria and the other is an enclosed lobby. Before, those trying to enter the building were stuck out in the weather until they entered the school itself.
“We cannot wait to get into this new building,” Vandenkieboom said. “We’re really excited about the environment we are going to be able to provide to the students. It’s going to be a lovely environment.”
Of course, she, as well as others are looking forward to seeing the same, yet different, main hallway again.
“That was something the whole staff really, really pushed for, because it provides that sense of community. It’s that walking up and down the common hall over the years that builds those relationships,” she said.