LAHS construction still lagging behind

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Board of Education: Mid-school plans are starting to take shape

By Jennifer Garcia

Things are beginning to take shape around the Los Alamos High School campus. Students and staff are now occupying at least part of the buildings at the school.

During Tuesday night’s school board meeting at Pajarito Cliffs, David Wharram, Gerald Martin’s owner’s representative, talked about the project’s progress. According to a report presented to board members, the new building is on schedule and is progressing well, as part of the main work package.

Both the E Wing and the IMC were completed as per the accelerated schedule and a punch list of items that need to be worked on has been completed. In an effort to make sure that no punch list items are overlooked, the architect, facilities and school personnel all worked on the list together, according to the report.

Despite the progress made on E Wing and the IMC, Wharram’s report stated the work site around campus has been slow and is behind schedule. However, the report further indicated that the lag in schedule will not prevent the new building from opening, but it will exceed the scheduled completion date of the project as a whole.

“They are catching up their work,” Wharram said. “I don’t see it as a problem right now.”

Wharram’s report also stated that the painting on the main level and lower level is nearly complete, while the upper level painting is slightly behind schedule. The cabinetry has been fitted and most of the windows are in place. Electricity to the site should be live by the end of this month.

Construction at Los Alamos Middle School was also discussed at Tuesday’s meeting. Julie Walleisa, representative for architectural firm Dekker/Perich/Sabatini, said they are three weeks from the scheduled end of the design development stage. She said the project budget is set, as is the square footage that the Public Schools Facility Authority will contribute to.

“Any changes will have to be reworked. We’re contractually obligated to keep the project on schedule as much as we can,” she said.

LAPS Board Vice President Kevin Honnell asked Walleisa about the idea of shared classrooms and the size of the science rooms, querying whether they’d be large enough to accommodate students.

Walleisa explained that a formula is used by the state, made up of square footage and the number of students, as well as the number periods in the day, to determine the utilization rate for classrooms. She said 27 students may occupy a classroom, while the number is lower for special education students, at 10-15.

Despite Walleisa’s reassurance about classroom utilization, former teacher Karyl Ann Armbruster voiced her concern over special education students not being treated fairly. She said she had issues with the “relative isolation of the Living Skills class and the PSP (behavior class) and that placing students behind a science lab is offensive.

“They’ll see regular kids all the time, but they’re still not a part of the school,” Armbruster said, adding that the state is devaluing the kids in special education.

“I don’t think we should leave them out of the equation. I’m not angry at anyone, these are my concerns,” she said.
Walleisa said that several special education teachers were involved in the planning discussions about the classrooms.

“They disagree with those concerns,” she told Armbruster. “It’s not about isolation, it’s about function. These were all functionally-driven decisions that came about.”

School Board President Melanie McKinley tried to assure Armbruster that the planning process had been well though out. “This is a very thorough process. The board respects the people that had input,” she said.

“This is a very good process to end up with a space you value.”