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Education

  • LAMS Field Officially Opens

    It doesn’t have a name yet, but that didn’t stop Los Alamos Middle School from having a small dedication ceremony for its new football field Thursday, just before the Hawks played their game against the McCurdy Bobcats.

    According to LAMS Football coach Darren Jones, the field’s been open since fall sports began, and that now would be a great time for the ceremony.

    “Since this was going to be our last game here for the season, we decided now would be a good time,” Jones said.

    According to Jones, the turf features the same type of artificial turf that’s on Sullivan Field, and ever since his kids have been using it, he can see a marked difference between the artificial turf and the natural grass field they’ve had since the early 60s.

    “It’s really awesome,” he said. “We’ve had a soccer tournament here earlier and we’ve got a lot of good feedback about the new field.

    “The best part about it is that there are no bumps,” Jones said. “It’s a nice, level playing field, easy to run and maneuver on.”

    LAMS’ Assistant Principal Anna Vargas-Gutierrez characterized the field as a real accomplishment for the middle school.

  • Properties Generate Revenue for District

    Entrepreneurs looking for the ideal place to locate their business, need to look no further than the Los Alamos Public Schools. Some might not know the LAPS has a number of properties around town that are suitable for residents who might be looking to open a business.

    Currently the Los Alamos Public School District has at least two properties for lease, The “L” section of a building at 3540 Orange St. and two suites, “S” and “T” at 2101 Trinity Dr. And though they aren’t giving the properties away for free, the leases can be pretty reasonable. According to the district’s assets manager, Joan Ahlers, the process is pretty straightforward.

    “If somebody wants to lease from the school district, whether it’s vacant land or actual office space, they come through my office,” she said. “We then do a needs analysis and find out what may work for them.”

    After a price is negotiated, a three-step approval process then begins. First, the lease has to be approved by either the Public Education Department or the State Board of Finance. From there, the school board then approves the lease, before it moves on to planning and zoning at the county.

  • LAHS football player reinstated

    The Speech Theatre at Los Alamos High was the backdrop to a different kind of drama Tuesday night as friends, family and well-wishers showed up at the scheduled school board meeting to show their support for high school senior Grant Washburn.

    Among the crowd of supporters was Washburn’s dad, Gerry, a former school principal who now heads the school district’s human resources department.

    Part of the board’s agenda concerned the fate of the younger Washburn’s football career. Washburn was suspended from all extracurricular activities, including football, after a voluntary search of his vehicle Aug. 30 produced an empty baggie that subsequently tested for a substance consistent with marijuana.

    During the hearing, Washburn told the board that indeed, he left campus without permission to drop a friend off in another part of town. It was implied that it was this friend who left the rolling papers, two cigarette lighters and the empty baggie behind.

    The board patiently heard two hours of testimony over whether to reinstate the star football player and then took another hour to make its decision.

  • Smiths awards $47K to local schools

    At a time when funding for public schools is stretched, Smith’s Food & Drug Stores will donate $47,152.48 to Los Alamos and White Rock public and private K-12 schools through its Earn & Learn Program.
    A check presentation will be Tuesday, October 9, 2012 at 5:30 pm in the speech theater at Los Alamos High School, 1300 Diamond Dr.  Smith’s Store Managers John Roberts from Los Alamos, and Boyd Moffett from White Rock will represent Smith’s.
    Local schools receiving a portion of the funds in undesignated cash contributions based upon their level of support in the program include: Los Alamos Middle School $5,066.60; Los Alamos High School $4,728.38; Mountain Elementary $4,380.14; Barranca Mesa Elementary $4,157.33; Aspen Elementary $3,665.20; Los Alamos Public Schools Foundation $3,099.73; and Los Alamos Band Boosters $2,927.88. Chamisa Elementary School in White Rock received $4,786.26.
    Since 2006, Smith’s has gifted $448,665 to Los Alamos area schools. The donation from Smith’s is unrestricted and schools may select the most appropriate use for the funds. Eligible schools must be a qualified 501(c)(3) nonprofit, state-accredited, K-12 school located within Smith’s operating areas in New Mexico, Utah, Arizona, Idaho, Nevada, Wyoming and Montana.

  • LAHS students honored

    Los Alamos High School Principal Sandy Warnock announced this week that nine students have been named Commended Students in the 2012 National Merit Scholarship Program.  
    A Letter of Commendation from the school and National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC), which conducts the program, were presented by the principal to these scholastically talented seniors.
    They are Daniel Hill, Gabriel Intrator, Johnny Jacobs, Simona Martin, Emily McClenahan, Danielle Parsons, Maria Sandoval, Jessica Bohn and Samuel Baty.
    About 34,000 Commended Students throughout the nation are being recognized for their exceptional academic promise.
    Although they will not continue in the 2012 competition for National Merit Scholarships, Commended Students placed among the top five percent of more than 1.5 million students who entered the 2012 competition by taking the 2010 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT).

  • Major Piece of Middle School Completed

    Mornings for students, parents and middle school officials just got a little less hectic this week, as the “bus loop” at the Los Alamos Middle School became open for business.

    Los Alamos Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Gene Schmidt said he was there the day the loop opened, because he didn’t want to miss it.

    “It was a very special moment for us, I’m very proud of what we accomplished,”
    Schmidt said, adding that it was one of many planned improvements to the infrastructure of the Los Alamos School District.

    “What we’re trying to do whenever possible is separate parent drop-offs, student/pedestrian walks and bus drop-offs,” Schmidt said.

    Not only will it increase safety, Schmidt said, but having a dedicated pick-up and drop-off area for buses will cut down on the confusion at peak parking times. “It avoids a lot of confusion in terms of right-of-way, when you have cars coming in, buses coming in, staff and kids walking through, it does a nice job of organizing the traffic flow pattern,” Schmidt said.

    Now that the bus loop is open, parents and pedestrians will have their own entrance to the school while the 13 buses used to transport students from Los Alamos and White Rock will have their own drop-off site from Hawk Drive.

  • School Board makes land swap official

    Recently, the Los Alamos Public School Board of Education made a land swap between the county and the district official.

    The board officially passed a resolution finalizing the swap Sept. 11. Three years ago, when Diamond Drive was being renovated, the county and LAPS decided to do a land swap that they would both benefit from.

    LAPS needed a section of land near Diamond Drive and Canyon Road that would allow them to expand and renovate Mesa Field, and the county needed a section of land near Orange and Diamond Drive to install a right-of-way.

    “The county’s bus stop was on school land, our retaining wall (Mesa Field) was on county land, and all we wanted to do was remedy that,” LAPS Assets Manager Joan Ahlers said.

    One of the district’s primary motivations for the swap was that land ownership issues were clashing with the school’s policies designed to protect students.

  • Local educator wins state Teacher of the Year award

    If you ever attend teacher Justin Black’s “math” class, don’t stand in the middle of the room.

    You’re liable to get trampled.

    That’s because Black, who was recently chosen as “Physical Education Teacher of the Year” by the New Mexico Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, has a unique way of exercising the muscles and brains of Chamisa Elementary students, all at the same time.  

    It’s something you have to see to understand. For each history section of the class, Black posts images of  historical figures and places all around the walls of the gym at Chamisa Elementary, which is Black’s classroom. Black calls out the name of said figure or place, and the students are expected to run to the correct picture. It makes for an exciting class, as a lot of students get it right, and some don’t. Either way, everyone wins as the physical experience of winning or losing reinforces the right answer in their heads.

    Math is set up like a relay race. Black divides his class in two, and each “team” forms a line facing one of the inside walls of Chamisa’s gym. On the walls are large sets of cross hairs with numbers in each of the crosshair’s sections.

  • Gas back on at middle school

    Usually, if someone walks into a crowded room and says loudly “we’ve got gas,” the crowd is going to quickly get away from that person.

    But since it was open house night at the Los Alamos Middle School and the person doing the shouting was Los Alamos Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Gene Schmidt, the crowd cheered.

    Ever since a main gas line broke at the middle school a couple of weeks ago, people were wondering if the school was going to have heated classrooms and hot food for students when winter came.

    According to Schmidt, the leak was isolated Tuesday and repairs began immediately. The leak was somewhere in a thousand-foot stretch of the gas line that runs alongside the temporary classrooms.

    “We found the actual leak along that section of pipe,” Schmidt said. “By this Tuesday, the students will be having hot lunch.” The middle school cafeteria also provides hot lunches to all the elementary schools, as well.

    The middle school’s troubles started about two weeks ago when a subcontractor working for McCarthy Construction, the contractor in charge of renovating the school, struck a gas line with a backhoe. After doing a number of pressure tests using air to find the leak, the company found leaks in other areas of the network.

  • 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.