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Why is a new Bond needed and what will it be used for?
Over the years, the Los Alamos Public Schools have enjoyed a reputation for academic achievement and recognition by numerous groups and publications for excellence. While the district actively strives to provide an atmosphere where students can succeed, its buildings continue to age and deteriorate. Research documents that in well-built, attractive environments, student behavior is more positive and achievement is higher.
Many of the school buildings are more than 50 years old with some approaching 60 years. Historically, in 1998, the school board and administration recognized the need to begin a Capital Improvement Plan. The plan proposed a bond, which raised taxes that year but promised no tax increase during the four-year life of the bond.
This program has been successful - providing new buildings at Mountain Elementary and Aspen Elementary schools, as well as the high school, and major remodeling at Aspen, the middle school, high school and Mountain.
Electrical upgrades at all schools have been done and many projects including replacing systems such as boilers and air conditioning, replacing thousands of square feet of aging concrete and providing greater ADA access at all campuses have been completed.
In 1998, as part of the Capital Improvement Plan, the district identified more than $100 million in necessary improvements but had only funded approximately $23 million of those projects. For the first six years of the plan, measurable progress in school improvement was made. But a 2006 study indicated the maintenance of buildings and educational environment is rapidly losing ground.
This year the school board convened a Facilities Master Plan Committee to evaluate campuses and make a recommendation to the board for the next 20 years. The committee recognized that despite asking the board to maximize bonding capacity, everything identified deficient could not be fixed, but could “add decades of useful life to all our buildings” and start to bring the educational environment into today’s standards.
“Why spend so much money on schools? Can’t a good teacher teach motivated students under a tree or inside a tent? So what if school buildings don’t meet state-of-the-art teaching standards, need some paint, are always a bit too cool or too hot or have a few toilets that don’t flush properly?” Robert K Lewis of the Washington Post asked. “Turn the question around. Shouldn’t a school occupied by children for hundreds of days annually, and also serving as a focus and resource for a community throughout the year, be beautiful as well as clean, comfortable and safe?”
Consequently, this new bond is slated to replace B, C and D wings at the high school, build a multipurpose gym/cafeteria building at the middle school, and replace the main classroom wing at Aspen.
The district will be able to upgrade the auditorium and gym at the high school, build a classroom building at the middle school, replace aging water and gas lines, and make much needed roof repairs across the district. Completing these projects will help the district replace 14 of the district’s 20 portables with permanent classroom space.
Additionally, maximizing bonding capacity will send a message to the state that the community is fully behind the schools and will allow to qualify for a higher percentage of matching funds.
It’s never easy supporting bond issues, but providing the community’s children the facilities they need to achieve academic success in the global economy will ensure that the community is doing the best it can for years to come.
For more information, see the LAPS 20-Year Facilities Renewal plan at www.laschools.net.