Board green lights bus loop

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LAHS: Plan more costly than anticipated

By Jennifer Garcia

Months of debate, rejected plans and much discussion came to an end Tuesday during the Los Alamos Board of Education meeting.

Board members were able to reach a consensus regarding the proposed bus loop at Los Alamos High School and voted 5-0 in favor of study number eight, which would have buses entering school grounds from Diamond Drive and exiting onto Orange Street.

According to a press release from Los Alamos Public Schools, the High School Bus Loop Committee met on July 3 “to review the high school bus loop option that will be presented to the school board at the July 10 meeting.

Before discussion began, Los Alamos Public Schools Superintendent Gene Schmidt said he thought the committee came up with “a plan for the bus loop that I think is very workable.” He also said the project would cost approximately $236,000, which was more than he expected.

However, Schmidt also said that the New Mexico Public Schools Facility Authority would contribute $100,000 to landscaping and parking, while the New Mexico Department of Transportation would add $30,000 to help defray the cost.

“We are in the process of recycling concrete blocks from the middle school that could be used for retaining walls,” Schmidt said.

This most recent iteration is slightly different than the options discussed at the work session June 28. The most noticeable change is the addition of visitor/administrative parking on the corner of the bus loop that had been considered as a location to pile snow.”

The option also does the following:
• replaces the existing sidewalk along Smith Auditorium and P Wing with a new six-foot-wide sidewalk
• improves drainage in the bus loop
• creates a dedicated bus loading/unloading zone
• includes controlled crosswalks, includes a moveable six-foot-tall fence
• includes a seal/fog coating on the entire parking lot
• restripes the parking lot and includes speed/rumble strips

Students will be asked to enter through Orange Street, while parents will be asked to drop-off and pick up students in either the jock lot or at Sullivan Field.

Construction on the project will begin as soon as possible and could be done in two phases if necessary, to be completed in time for the beginning of school in August.

During the first phase, sidewalks, fencing, preliminary striping, drainage and seal/fog coat patchwork would be done, while the parking lot would be resurfaced with a new coat of asphalt in the second phase.

Following discussion of the project, High School Bus Loop Committee Member and parent Jeanine Tulenko said, “A lot of thought has gone into this plan, we’re out of time. I’d encourage you to approve the plan. It might not be perfect but it needs to move forward … if we don’t move on this now, we’re going to be in a real dilemma.”

LAHS teacher Brian Easton agreed with Tulenko. “None of the plans were perfect … this seems to be the one …”
Despite the fact that option eight seemed like the best choice, board member Melanie McKinley had some reservations about the fencing.

“I think the fence is a bad choice to be six-foot … in a couple years when it has to be replaced, I just want to be able to say I told you so.”

The board also took action on a landscaping plan for the bus loop area. Schmidt presented three plans to the members, with costs ranging from $400,000 for the first option, $600,000 for the second option and $800,000 for the third option.

He said the committee wanted to bring a plan to the board that was less than $500,000.

“If the board authorizes one of these plans, we can start in August.” He also said he thought the cost was a “little high.”
After discussing the three options, McKinley said she was not satisfied with moving forward with a plan.

“I just want more input,” she said, stating that she realized the community cares about the space.

Board Member David Foster agreed with McKinley, but thought the board should authorize funding for the project.

“We should move forward with the caveat that we need to continue talking about it. We need to start moving forward,” board member Dawn Venhaus said.

Following further board comments, Foster made a motion to proceed with the concept of option one, with the requirement that various other options be included, allowing for small modifications, up to $368,000. Venhaus added an amendment, changing the budget to less than $500,000.

The amendment passed 5-0, while the original motion passed 4-1, with McKinley voting against it.
Community members interested in providing input on the landscaping options should contact Schmidt at 663-2230 or e.schmidt@laschools.net.

Board members may also be contacted. Their email addresses are available at laschools.net.