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Education

  • School adapts to test mandate

    It’s called the “high school competency exam,” and if you’re a parent with a child in the Los Alamos Public School System, you probably already know that.

    What you may not know is, thanks to a recent change in state requirements students in their junior year of high school are now required to pass the test in order to graduate from high school. In other words, students in the graduating class of 2013 will be the first class that will have to pass the exam in order to graduate.

    “It used to be that if you had all your credits, you’d be able to graduate,” said Assistant Superintendent Paula Dean. “Now you have to show on this test you are proficient in these subjects.”

    The exam tests kids on how well they know science, math and reading. However, only math and reading count toward graduation scores. Students need at least a combined score of 2272.5 in these subjects to pass.

    So how did those kids do when they took the test last year?

    According to the stats, 28 students out of the class of ’13 failed to meet the requirements. That’s about 10 percent of the class of 268 students.

  • School Board tackles LAMS gas line issue

    The Los Alamos School Board voted Thursday to have a construction firm tear up all the old sections of a gas line currently underneath the middle school campus.

    The gas line, which is about 1,000-feet long and runs from the northern end of the middle school campus to the southern end, had been threatening the $18 million construction project since Monday when construction crews accidentally ruptured the line. Though no gas has run through the line since Monday, air pressure tests on the line have revealed multiple leaks.

    “It was very easy to build consensus on this,” Los Alamos Public Schools Board President Kevin Honnell said. “When you find something that’s already a problem and it’s only going to get worse over time, now is the time to fix it. After all, you’re building an entirely new school.”

    Board member Melanie McKinley, who represents White Rock, said it just makes sense to her.

    “I was confused as to why they didn’t replace this entire aging infrastructure when they first started construction,” McKinley said. “To me, it seemed an easy decision to make. When you’re in there doing all this work, you replace all of it.”

    It’s estimated the cost to replace all the existing lines will be about $20,000.

  • LAPS scrutinizes safety

    It seems like the construction crews working on the middle school renovation can’t catch a break.

    Though they fixed a gas leak that was caused when a backhoe hit a gas line Monday, they recently discovered another new leak in an older line attached to the connection.

    However, officials stress there was no gas in the line this time; the discovery came about when they were conducting a pressure test with air. Since Monday, the gas has been off.

    “That’s all we know at this point,” said David Wharram, a spokesman for McCarthy, the contractor in charge of the Los Alamos Middle School renovation.

    As of press time, Wharram couldn’t say anything else about the leak. “We will know nothing else until they dig up the line.” The school-owned line is approximately 1,000-feet long and parallels the middle school parking lot, running along an edge of the campus where the portable classrooms are now located.

    The leak’s discovery was revealed in a closed-door meeting Wednesday between McCarthy and school officials.

    Los Alamos Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Gene Schmidt said he was glad the leak was found and that it was being taken care of.

  • District hikes rent on instruments

    For all those aspiring musicians out there in the Los Alamos Public Schools system, the school board has some good news and some bad news.

    The bad news is, it recently voted to raise the rental fees for school instruments by $20, making the price $100 to rent an instrument from the district per school year and $50 for the summer. Percussionists, who never had to pay a rental fee, will now have to pay $20 a year for the privilege.

    The good news is the rental rates haven’t been raised since the 80s, and the $20 hike should be more than adequate to take care of repairs for quite a while.

    “We decided on $20 because it was a nice round number that would be adequate for repair and maintenance of the instruments,” said Kim Lettellier, the school system’s music staff team leader. “This should prevent us from having to nickel and dime parents every year.”

    During an interview with the school board, Lettellier also noted that $100 a year is still quite a bargain.

    “To rent a violin some place else, it would cost students about $15 a month. That’s a basic fee, anywhere you go,” she said. “ … It is quite a service we are providing to the community.”

  • Freshman orientation

    Freshmen were at Los Alamos High School Tuesday for orientation. LAHS ambassadors took students on tours highlighting access points for the new students

  • Last-minute moves cause concerns

    For many parents that have kids attending the middle school this year, it was worry enough knowing their kids were going to be getting an education in a virtual construction zone as the middle school undergoes a multi-million dollar, year-long renovation.

    As the summer wore on and the first day of school loomed closer and closer, worry turned to frustration as the portable classrooms meant for the middle school students just sat in a lot outside Los Alamos High School, with no plans to move them in sight.

    Add to that the decision to move the portable classrooms was delayed by two more weeks due to a complaint from one of the project’s losing bidders. The uncertainty and delays brought many parents to their breaking point.

    Even School Board President Kevin Honnell was frustrated.

    “There was a lot of concern about this. I had to watch, like the rest of the residents driving back and forth on Diamond Drive, the calendar days peel by with nothing being done,” Honnell said.

    But at Tuesday’s  Los Alamos Public Schools Board of Education meeting, he and others finally got their answers from McCarthy spokesman David Wharram.

  • First day of school

    Wednesday marked the first day of school for Los Alamos Public School students.

  • And the walls come tumbling down ...

    Demolition began this week at the Los Alamos Middle School. Portables have been moved from the high school and classes will start Aug. 15.

  • Teachers Want Reform

    Teachers, parents and administrators say they’d welcome a reform of New Mexico’s teacher evaluation system.

    But they say the current rule has been rushed and doesn’t account for challenges outside the classroom.

    The state chapter of the American Federation of Teachers led a protest Wednesday before education officials met in a public hearing. The Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce is among supporters of the new rule.

    Efforts to replace the current evaluation system with one based on student test score gains failed in the Legislature.
    Education Secretary Hanna Skandera then moved to overhaul the system through administrative rule.

  • UNM-LA to offer programs for younger students

    UNM-LA will host “University Experience,” from July 23-27. This program is a newly designed and invigorated version of what was once called “Children’s College.”  
    This program includes two components, the “University Adventures” program for students entering grades 4-7 and “University Explorations” for older students entering grades 7-12.  Seventh graders may select either program, depending on their interests.