LAMS unveils first new classroom

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Education > Construction gains momentum

By Tris DeRoma

Los Alamos Middle School officials, representatives of the construction company and students invited the public to a very special milestone: a look at the first classroom of the school’s new campus. And it wasn’t just any classroom either; it happened to be the “Living Skills” classroom, the classroom where the school’s special-needs students learn basic life skills in order to gain a degree of independence.


The school’s orchestra was on hand to kick off the ribbon-cutting ceremony with a rousing rendition of Keith Sharp’s “Fiddle O’Finnigan” before Principal Rex Kilburn welcomed everyone inside the spacious room, which, with its kitchen, resembled a two-room apartment more than a classroom.

Kilburn first thanked the community for approving the second $20 million bond issue that allowed the school district to continue the construction.

“We wouldn’t be here without the community supporting the bond and letting this construction go on,” Kilburn said.

He also thanked Superintendent of Schools Dr. Gene Schmidt, Assistant Superintendent of Schools Paula Dean and the Los Alamos School Board.

Schmidt, in turn, thanked the staff and entire student body for hanging in there while construction goes on around them, as part of a several-year, multi-million dollar effort to redesign the campus and bring building specs up to code.

“It wasn’t too long ago that you were cutting a ribbon on your new football field, and now you have your new special ed program. In a short amount of time you will have a whole new academic wing,” Schmidt said. “And so we thank you for living in portable classrooms, and when it’s your turn to move into a new classroom, it’s all going to be worth it.”

Inside, everyone gathered for refreshments, taking in the new space as they talked about future plans.
Naomi Unger, the Living Skills teacher that preceded Becky Smith, was crying tears of joy.

“This is the Living Skills program, and so these are the kids with the greatest need. For us to open this space first is finally an acknowledgement that these kids are important,” Unger said. “I think we do a really good job in this community of addressing the gifted kids, the kids that exceed, but we need to do more for the kids that need more.”

Kilburn said the working kitchen is just a small part of what’s in store for the Living Skills students. “We are going to have an even better program than we already do,” Kilburn said. “So we’re looking forward to see how Becky is going to incorporate the kitchen into her teaching.”

Smith, or “Miss Becky” to her students, has been teaching the program for three years in Los Alamos. Smith said the space, including the kitchen, would certainly allow her to do many things for the students that she hadn’t been able to do before. “It’s going help us teach many life skills, and of course the space is very beautiful, so I think the kids will have a tendency to take care of it, to call it their own.”

Smith not only expressed her gratitude for the space, but for the community as well.

“It’s so amazing, I’m so thrilled and grateful,” she said. “One thing though, the kids don’t need the space, they need the people. And look at the people who are here, that’s what they love.”