More funding for elementary schools possible

January 13, 2011 • Local News

The state may dole out more funding to renovate several elementary schools in the area, officials say.

The Public School Capital Outlay Council, a state body that allocates grant money to school districts based on need, will vote today on whether Monterrey, Pecos and East Grand Plains elementary schools will receive money for remodelling.

“It’s a very important vote,” Roswell Independent School District Michael Gottlieb said. “We don’t generate enough money through bonds to renovate all these schools that we’re doing.”

Each school in the district is required by law to have a five-year facilities master plan. Roswell residents voted to cover 28 percent of the cost for each of the three schools through a [auth] general obligation bond last May. The district is hoping the PSCOC will foot the rest of the bill, or 72 percent of the total project cost for each school.

The three schools have already received some partial funding from the PSCOC in the original award cycle for design and planning. Those expenses covered architect fees and enough money to draw up blueprints— legwork that took about a year and a half to complete.

But now, the PSCOC — a nine-member body comprised of both state executive and legislative agencies — still has to approve the out-of-cycle, or just-in-time funding, for the actual construction.

School district officials remain optimistic that the PSCOC will approve the funding despite economic troubles.

“The state will match us on our construction funds,” if RISD meets the state criteria and is high enough on the priority list,  Chad Cole, RISD Assistant Superintendent for Financial Operations, said.

But a “yes” vote is not an absolute certainty. According to a Sept. 2010 press release from Robert Gorrell, the director of the Public School Facilities Authority, an agency under the PSCOC umbrella, nothing is a guarantee due to the “the extreme economic downturn and the volatility of the oil and gas revenue that make up our funding stream.”

East Grand Plains Elementary School ranks fourth out of 747 schools on the 2009-2010 New Mexico Condition List, making it one of the neediest schools in the state. Monterrey and Pecos elementary schools rank fifth and eighth on the list, respectively. The NMCI measures the physical condition and adequacy of a school facility based on the state’s adequacy standards.

According to Joe Baca, the operations and support services manager for RISD, the elementary school classrooms are woefully inadequate, not to mention riddled with asbestos.

“We have to make adjustments to comply to standards,” he said.

If funded, the schools will be remodelled to have bigger classrooms. Pecos Elementary School will also receive a four-room classroom addition and the library will be relocated with a new addition.

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