LAPS board ponders LAMS construction finance options

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By Jennifer Garcia

The students at Los Alamos High School will soon have a revamped campus and if all goes well financially, the students at the middle school can look forward to new digs, as well.
During Tuesday night’s school board meeting at Pajarito Cliffs, Superintendent Gene Schmidt said the middle school education staff has been busy thinking about what the middle school could look like. Though these are only concepts at this point, Schmidt is confident that administration will soon agree on one of the options.
“We’re leaning toward option one,” Schmidt said.
Option one would include tearing down the 100 and 200 wings and adding a new gymnasium that would include locker rooms. This option would remove 52,648 gross square feet and add 80,457 GSF. It would also house the sixth grade in the 500 wing, which is currently used as classroom space.
Much like the current construction at the high school, students at the middle school would go to class in portable buildings during construction.
“The current middle school administrative
offices would be the first site of construction,” Schmidt said, “So admin would be displaced in the first phase.”
Schmidt said that option one would cost slightly more than $22 million.
“The state wants to give us $9 million if we can combine phases one and two,” Schmidt said. He also said the state is encouraging the school district to build faster, and if the district could pull that off, the project would be finished in 2012 or 2013.
“Our bond money was going to fund three phases of the middle school,” Schmidt said, referring to the $40 million bond that voters passed in the 2009 election.
“The state has come back and said because the building is old and not adequate; they are willing to participate (through funding).”
Chief Financial Officer John Wolfe said, “The folks from the Public Schools Facility Authority will be at the table with us as we go through the numbers. If they say our adequacy requires $9 million, then that’s what we’ll be looking to get from them. If they say no, it won’t take $9 million, it’ll take $3 or $4 million, and then obviously that’s what we’ll have to build our design around, whether it’s the high or the low end.”
Wolfe said if the district goes above their adequacy standards, then the additional cost will be “on their dime.”
However, Schmidt said that if the district does not have the money to build as quickly as the state would like, the project would have to be done in two phases.
“The conversation all hinges on finance,” Schmidt said. “Do we have the money to do this thing? Could we tie it to a bond?”
Bond and Construction Coordinator Herb McLean said that administration is having ongoing talks with the PSFA, who would ultimately award the district the $9 million being discussed.
“It’s an exciting conversation to be having,” Schmidt said, but pointed out that the district cannot proceed until an architect is hired.
He also said that by choosing option one, it gives the school board the opportunity to make decisions in the future about the sixth grade, and whether or not to create a sixth grade academy.
“If it weren’t for the community’s commitment to education and passing of the $40 million bond in 2009, we wouldn’t be in this position,” Schmidt said. “Our community was willing to invest in the future of the kids, and along comes the state, willing to give us $9 million. It’s a nice return on the community’s resource and an acknowledgement on the state’s part that we need to bring our buildings into adequacy.”