• Class size spike in three schools angers parents

    First in a series.

    A number of parents, alarmed at the sharp rise in second grade class sizes in three elementary schools, turned out for Tuesday’s Los Alamos Board of Education meeting to voice their concerns.

    “These class sizes are too large and unacceptable to me and many other parents,” resident Susan O’Leary told the board.

    O’Leary, who has two children enrolled at Mountain Elementary, continued to get her point across.

    “The most important variable I hear about elementary education is class size,” O’Leary said. “If we pay attention to class size knowing that reasonable classes mean that our children will get a reasonable amount of attention from the teacher at a time when many children are learning how to behave in a classroom. The National Education Association recommends class sizes of 15 for grades K through 3. I’d settle for a class size of 20.”

    According to documents obtained from the Los Alamos Public Schools, the average number of students in second grade classes in each of the elementary schools is 25 as of Aug. 14. Upon obtaining the figures, school officials reminded the Los Alamos Monitor that the numbers are fluid, and they won’t know for about two weeks whether the numbers are accurate or not.

  • School's Back In Session
  • New teachers report to work

    Back row left to right: Nathaniel Bates, Valerie Collins, Renee Dunwoody, Katherine Herring, Jaclyn LaFon, Miel Lim, Michaelangelo Lobato. Front row left to right: Angelic Martinez, David Parsons, Elizabeth Radcliff, Mitchy Rene, Eleanor Simons, Sarah Szymanski-Blom, Patricia Wilson.

  • Principal: Aspen ready for school year

    While most schools have been fairly dormant over the summer, that hasn’t been the case for Aspen Elementary School.

    From the very start of the summer break, the school has been a hive of activity as construction work began on building the school’s new design and school officials worked toward making the return to school as normal as possible for students.

    This year, students will be bypassing the actual school for a campus of modular buildings parked in the back. According to Aspen School Principal Katherine Vandenkieboom, all the teachers are nearly settled, and the portable classrooms are all set up.

    “We’ve had some really great help, and now it’s just a matter of figuring out where the furniture goes."

    While the first day of school is Wednesday. Another important date parents need to keep in mind is Tuesday. That’s the day Vandenkieboom will have posted each student’s homeroom assignment. This year, because of the construction, the assignments will be posted on the construction gate in front of the school, which is at the corner of 33rd Street and Villa.

  • 'Topper Pride

    Los Alamos High School principal Sandra Warnock shows her appreciation to the students for achieving an “A” grade on the recent state report card.

  • Middle school nears finish

    If all goes well, it seems students and staff will just have one more month at Los Alamos Middle School’s temporary campus before moving into the new school.

    According to school and construction officials familiar with the project, moving day could take place as early as Labor Day weekend.

    Though Aug. 8 was mentioned as a possible opening date, the contractor, McCarthy Construction experienced unforeseen obstacles early in the project, and so was unable to make that date. Crews encountered more rock than usual under the foundation of the building, and that triggered other delays in various facets of the project, which forced them to fall back to Labor Day weekend. The absolute deadline is actually later in the fall, where, if they don’t make that deadline, then financial penalties will start to kick in for the contractor.

    “The actual contract date is not until October,” said David Wharram, the construction liaison the school district hired to keep them updated on McCarthy’s progress. “That’s when penalties actually kick in.”

    He added that they are currently working on getting the heating and ventilation systems squared away and some other items.

    The school apparently received its first test last week when students and parents showed up for registration.

  • Mountain gardens survive mischief

    It’s been an up-and-down kind of summer for Mountain Elementary School. School officials learned the student gardens were the target of mischief-makers while at the same time, the school was awarded a grant to help enhance its playground.
    The gardens are the source for a number of agricultural projects for the students, while at the same time teaching them responsibility and plant care. The gardens are located between the lower playground and a row of classrooms to the right of the main entrance.
    They also used to be decorated with signs from their respective classrooms, birdfeeders and birdbaths. However, while summer brings out the warm breezes and pleasant sunshine, it also has been known to bring out the vandals. Parents walking their children to camp found that out the hard way one day when they discovered that someone had destroyed all of the decorations last month.
    Karen Henderson, who has two sons that go to the school, had a large part in creating the gardens. As a member of the Mountain Elementary Parent Teacher Association, she wrote the grants that helped to make the garden possible. When school was in session, she also helped water and weed them as well.

  • UNM-LA states case to council

    After the defeat of its last attempt in 2010, the University of New Mexico–Los Alamos and its advocates are making a concerted effort to solidify public support for a 2-mil bond levy that comes before voters in September.

    UNM-LA’s current 1-mil levy (initiated 33 years ago) is the second lowest of all 17 two-year institutions in the state. UNM-Gallop has the highest combined operational and debt service mil levy at 5.33.

    UNM-LA Executive Director Cedric Page, the UNM-LA Advisory Board and the Los Alamos Committee for Higher Education (LACHE) have been on the stump to groups throughout Los Alamos.

    Page and advisory board Chair Stephen Boerigter addressed the Los Alamos County Council last week, winning a 5–0 vote in favor of a resolution supporting the effort. The two absent councilors, David Izraelevitz and Rick Reiss, have publicly supported the tax hike.

    Boerigter made the pitch to council, stressing how the university is meeting its mission to provide two-year degrees that transfer to bachelor programs, two-year workforce-focused degrees, workforce certificate programs, and lifelong learning opportunities for personal enrichment or career change.

    “We have great opportunities and results at UNM-LA,” Boerigter said.

  • Proud of what LAHS has to offer

    Los Alamos High School is no stranger to positive attributes, and Principal Sandy Warnock couldn’t be more proud of both students and staff.
    “Receiving national recognition from U.S. News, Newsweek, and the Washington Post demonstrating that what we are doing is making a difference, is certainly a highlight of the 2012-2013 school year,” Warnock said. “Earning an A on our report card from the state was another celebratory moment at LAHS.”
    Warnock beams when it comes to the success of the students, and goals have been accomplished across the board. The LAHS Freshman Academy has completed its second year incorporating new strategies to improve student achievement. Saturday school and academic time saw an increase of freshmen attendance allowing the new ’Topper additions to be successful.
    “Credit recovery served more students during the school day, helping students to complete graduation requirements,” said Warnock. “Saturday school and academic time saw an increase of ninth graders attending.”
    The 2013-2014 school year will bring changes in the core curriculum as they move to Common Core State Standards. The high school staff continues to look for ways to improve student achievement, through curriculum, clubs and activities.

  • Achievements shining bright at Piñon Elementary

    There are many wonderful things at Piñon Elementary and Principal Jill Gonzales couldn’t be more proud to highlight a few of them.
    The Panthers started the 2012-2013 school year by earning an “A” grade from the state and receiving their AdvancEd national school accreditation.
    “To me, both of these achievements reflect the high level of commitment demonstrated by students and staff in their pursuit of academic excellence in teaching and learning,” Gonzales said.
    They participated in the Laser i3 hands-on/inquiry-based science research project, conducted in partnership with the Smithsonian Institute.
    Her students will tell you that having a dedicated lab to collaborate with classmates and conduct real experiments and observations made science one of their favorite subjects.
    Gonzales believes that Piñon’s continued efforts to reach and teach children in a positive and supportive manner by implementing PBS (Positive Behavior Support) has been a benefit to the school community.
    The work included presenting weekly High Four Awards, given by staff to students for demonstrating Safe-Responsible-Respectful behavior, and equipping students with strategies to advocate for themselves in dealing with bullying behaviors, such as the “Stop-Walk-Talk” method.