Courtyard upgrades part of bond plans

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Education > Study shows academic environment can improve scores

By Tris DeRoma



When school bond ballots arrive in the mail this week, Los Alamos Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Gene Schmidt wants you to know that not all of the money is going toward Aspen Middle School.

Much of the $20 million in this bond cycle is going toward maintenance and utility needs throughout the district, design of the new Los Alamos Middle School Gym, as well as some touch-ups to Chamisa and Mountain elementary schools.

In this round of bond funding, Mountain Elementary will get new windows in one of its buildings and Chamisa will get a new roof for its arts classrooms.

One of the standouts of this year’s bond issue is additions to the LAMS courtyard, which is being built right now as one of the last projects from the first bond cycle of 2009.  

According to David Wharram, a spokesperson for the contractor doing the construction, the courtyard will measure 40,000-square-feet and will be located between the new building and the gym. The courtyard is an open design and will feature easy access to the new bus loop and the basketball courts as well, Wharram added.

If Los Alamos residents vote “yes” for this next $20 million in bonds, then the courtyard will receive additional enhancements including more trees, and structures for shade.

“These structures would actually help students when they get out for recess in the summer, in that it would keep them cooler,” Wharram said.

Schmidt said the reason why they decided to include a courtyard for the middle school is so students could have a secure and quiet place to gather.

“They can walk into the building and go out to this courtyard in the back where they can mingle and chat, without being visible to the public.” Schmidt said. “So, it provides security but also some hospitality as well as a space where kids can mingle with friends and not be bothered by the world.”

Schmidt also sees the courtyard being used as an outdoor classroom.

“We’ll be able to put more into the courtyard if the bond passes,” Schmidt said. “The quality of that area will be improved.” 

Lately, Schmidt and other school officials have been pushing to get the word out about the bonding initiative before the bond ballots shows up in residents’ mailboxes. Schmidt has been on a sort of lecture circuit all around town, talking to as many groups as possible about why they should vote “yes” for this bond request from the school district. 

One of his latest tools has been a California Department of Education study that said students who do better academically are students who have modern facilities to study and work in

“There is a growing body of research demonstrating that clean air, good light, and a small, quiet, comfortable, and safe learning environment are important for students’ academic achievement,” said a statement in the report.

Some key points in the California study included:

• Students who receive instruction in buildings with good environmental conditions can earn test scores that are 5-17 percent higher than scores for students in substandard buildings.

• There is a negative relationship between classroom noise higher than 40 decibels and student achievement.

• Schools with better building conditions have up to 14 percent lower student suspension rates.

He added that the $20 million will also help toward getting new windows for Mountain Elementary School`s 100 wing.

Many of the old windows are not energy efficient,” Schmidt said. “By putting in energy efficient windows, it helps to control the heating and cooling.”

Schmidt said the current windows, which were originally installed in the ’60s, are not insulated.

“If its cold outside, you can feel the cold coming through the window,” Schmidt said. We are looking to change the envelope of the building by changing them to more energy efficient windows.”

The bond referendum is due to arrive in mailboxes this week; residents have until Jan. 29 to return ballots on this issue.