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Voters OK bond issue

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Schools > Funds earmarked for projects across the district

By Tris DeRoma

Los Alamos voters gave the green light for the Los Alamos Public School System to spend another $20 million in general obligation bonds, according to the county clerk’s office.

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The unofficial ballot count shows residents approved the measure 4,283 to 1,784.

The bond funds will allow continued construction and renovation to go on at the Los Alamos Middle School as well as allow planned renovations and construction take place at Aspen Elementary over the next five years. Other priorities will be design plans for new music and choral facilities at Los Alamos High School, completing the Los Alamos Middle School courtyard, as well as design plans for the new middle school gym.

Earlier this month, 13,826 ballots were mailed to registered voters in the county, but only 6,186 were returned to the clerk’s office by the deadline of 7 p.m. Tuesday. Of the 6,186 ballots, 6,067 were validated as of Tuesday night.

A number of residents braving the cold to shop at Smith’s Tuesday took time out to voice their opinions about the bond vote.

“I voted ‘yes,’ ” resident John Roberts said. “I voted ‘yes’ because it is going to be spent on school facilities.”

Others didn’t seem to be aware they should have received a ballot in the mail, while others said they did but they never bothered to vote.

There were also some residents who were just as passionate about expressing alternative views.

“I voted ‘no,’ ” one person said. “They’re spending too much money on things they don’t need. They don’t need to be tearing down the middle school.”

Despite suffering from a cold, LAPS Superintendent Dr. Gene Schmidt was on hand at the clerk’s office, where the votes were being tallied Tuesday night.

When the votes came in, he was at once glad and relieved to see that Los Alamos residents have again given the schools a vote of confidence in the district’s ongoing quest to update and redesign the school system’s aging infrastructure.

“I think the vote was a nice, strong endorsement,” Schmidt remarked shortly after County Clerk Sharon Stover told him the outcome of the vote. “Now we have work to do and it’s going to be good work.”

Schmidt said that though this is just another step in a 20-year plan to modernize the school system, he’s going to accomplish as much as he can with this $20 million.

“This is another important step forward in our 20-year plan,” he said. “We finished the high school, we’re going to be finishing the middle school soon then we’re going to jump right into Aspen. It just continues that belief the district can reinvent itself over a 20-year span of time.”

While Aspen elementary will be getting $12 million of the bond funds for its renovation, Schmidt also remarked that this round of bond funds has also been earmarked for a wide variety of other projects as well.

There is even funding for Chamisa School, which coincidentally suffered extensive damage to its roof in the past few days due to an unexpected thaw and freeze cycle.

“Another nice thing about this bond is how widely the money is distributed throughout the school district,” Schmidt said. “One of those things is the roof at Chamisa Elementary School. It’s interesting that on a day that we’re having trouble with the Chamisa roof we get a bond passed to fix this.”

School Board President Kevin Honnell also weighed in on Tuesday’s vote saying, “Los Alamos has been a community that was founded upon and has consistently valued the lifelong importance of top-notch, quality education.”

Honnell specifically thanked the public for supporting the various construction projects the bond money has supported since 2009.

“We are tremendously gratified that our community is pleased with the rebuilding progress at the high school and middle school to the point of being willing to entrust us with additional hard-earned dollars to continue the rebuilding at Aspen and across the district,” Honnell said. “We promise to put those dollars to good use for the benefit of your children, their teachers, and the entire community.”

Outgoing school board member Melanie McKinley remarked that not only did residents vote for the bond, they did so by a strong majority. “It shows that Los Alamos supports what we’re doing for our schools by such a huge margin,” McKinley said. “I think it shows that they believe we’ve spent the money well. I’m so excited to see what the district is going to do with the bond money in the future. It’s going to be amazing.”