Music rooms at LAHS need TLC

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Education > Board asked to look at bond for facility upgrades

By Tris DeRoma

If you’re a longtime Los Alamos resident and you happen to revisit the high school’s “music wing,” where all the music classes take place, chances are you’d instantly recognize it.
That’s because according to some of the faculty, not much has changed there in the past 60 years.
As the Los Alamos School Board makes preparations to bond for more school reconstruction projects, members from the Los Alamos High School’s music faculty reminded the board of that.
The high school was the first school Los Alamos residents approved for reconstruction, which started in 2009.
However one section of the school, where most of the school’s bands, symphonies and choral groups are headquartered, along with the group’s equipment, was skipped for reconstruction for a later time.
Jason Rutledge, the high school’s choir director came to a recent board meeting to remind the board that that time has come.
He told the board that problems caused by 60 years of wear and tear, along with a growing student population, have over have only gotten worse. He told the board the entire wing should be included for funding when it comes time for the district’s next general obligation bond vote.
At a recent school board meeting, Rutledge mentioned that that particular section of the school attracts foot and activity traffic from at least 30 percent of school population that has grown rapidly through the years, so the facilities have received more than their share of usage.
“We feel that for a long time, it’s been neglected,” Rutledge told the board. “It sorely needs much improvement. We don’t have enough rehearsal space to accommodate all the ensembles that we have and all the ensembles that we want to have.”
That goes for individual students, as well, Rutledge said.
“Just like a student needs to go home and work on homework for a class and have a space and feel comfortable, they need to have a place they can go and work on their art, where they can have adequate space and equipment to do that,” he said, adding that currently there are no rooms that are soundproofed and properly equipped where students can practice their instruments.
Rutledge also mentioned ceiling tiles falling during rehearsal, a worn out carpet that can’t be changed easily, since it’s glued to asbestos-laden floor tile, and locker doors falling off onto students.
“The entire building is 60 years old and it needs many upgrades,” he said to the board, adding that it doesn’t help the district’s “public image” whenever they volunteer or assigned to host statewide events and musical competitions.
“...They come to our facilities and they are asking why they are going to our facilities when they aren’t as good as their facilities as far as choir, band rooms, bathrooms, practice rooms and hallways are concerned,” Rutledge said.
Some board members found it incredulous that the wing was in such bad shape.
“The students must have some rooms they could go into (to practice), don’t they?” Matt Williams, the vice president of LASB asked. Rutledge answered that, unfortunately, they do not, as the rooms are filled with band equipment and furniture.
Williams said that they should try to include B Wing improvements in the next bonding cycle. As a member of the last bond committee he said they had already made a promise to that effect in the last bonding cycle of 2012.
He also noted that there is some money still left over from that cycle they could use.
“This was one of the most visible promises that we made to this community that we were going to do when they passed the bond four years ago,” Williams said. “If we go before them now and say, well...sorry about that, or we didn’t mean it…I have some documents that clearly said we were going to do some work on that.”
The board generally empathized with Rutledge and the other music teachers, assuring them that there will be money available for them at the next bond cycle, which will be in 2017.
“I think the safety and health of our students is critical, and so is the health and safety of members of the public that use that space as well,” said LASB Secretary Andrea Cunningham. “We have to make sure this space is not going to be injuring people.”
Though the board did not take an official vote at the meeting, the high school’s music section will most likely to get a redesign.
“It seems to me, that this is a possible area, along with the Duane B. Smith Auditorium upgrades, we might be able to encourage the county to assist us, since it’s not exclusively used by the schools,” Hall said. “I agree with what Dr. WIlliams said. I think we made a commitment to the public on this that we have to keep if we’re going to hold on to our credibility when it comes to future bond elections.”