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Education

  • 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.

  • 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.