Editor's Note: This is the Part 3 of a multi-article series on the Prospectors' Legislative Community Forum, held at Western New Mexico University on Friday, Nov. 30, 2012. Community groups presented their needs and concerns to New Mexico Reps. Dianne Hamilton and Rodolpho "Rudy" Martinez, and Sen. Howie Morales.
George Peru, Cobre School District interim superintendent, said the district is just finishing renovating its third school. "Students just moved into the Central Elementary, which has been renovated. You should come visit."
"We are looking next semester to start on Bayard Elementary School," Peru said. "We are in the process of moving students. Because our enrollment has dropped, we can move students into another facility instead of having to work around them. Safety is important to us."
The auxiliary building at Bayard Elementary was not included in the funding, so the district is requesting $350,000. "Head Start is housed there, and the building is in dire need of roofing and infrastructure upgrades. We are also looking at our technology infrastructure."
Associate Superintendent Carrillo said that, as of the 2014-15 school year, the state is mandating online assessment testing. "The cost to the district will be $220,000. We are working with the Public Education Department to make sure we are prepared when the students are simultaneously assessing. We will also need more hardware. We have 80 computers at each school, but about 300 will be assessing at the same time. We are still working on our needs assessment, which cost $1.2 million last time."
Peru said the high school needs renovation. "It was on the PED priority list, but we did a roofing project, so now it's not on the priority list. We are also looking at infrastructure and the cosmetic part. It will take $5 million to finish the renovation. It was built in 1953 and has the original gym floor."
Rep. Rudy Martinez said: "It is enlightening to hear what you've done and what your needs are." He asked for additional information on the online assessment.
Carrillo said the state sent the district a notice about the change to online only. "We don't know yet the implications. In order the keep the integrity of the assessments the students will be taking them at the same time. We need to be able to sustain the traffic and will need more hardware."
Martinez asked if fiber optics lines were at the schools.
"Yes, we have it at several schools," Carrillo said. "But we don't know yet how the students will interact with the testing, so we are working with the state on how much we will need."
"Our IT people say we don't have enough," Peru said.
Morales confirmed that they did not know the costs, with no clarification yet with the PED.
"I'm concerned that it will cost $70 million to implement," Morales said.
Peru said the New Mexico Public Schools Authority does a 60-40 split on funding, so the cost of the renovation of Bayard Elementary School will have a 40 percent cost match. "We will move the students into the Middle School, but the cost of the auxiliary building might have to be borne by the district. We are requesting $5 million, which can include the PED match."
Priscilla Lucero of the Southwest New Mexico Council of Governments said, with regard to the Local Government Planning Fund, each year $2 million is allocated. "School districts are eligible through the New Mexico Finance Authority. There is a rule under consideration for changes. I hope it will continue to allow school districts and universities to apply for planning dollars. A school district is eligible for up to a $200,000 loan at 0 percent interest, if it is a disadvantaged area."
Morales pointed out that the legislators have a limited amount of capital outlay, so all funding options should be looked at.
Lucero said the local representatives at the PFSA had changed, but the area's needs are increasing.
Hamilton said she was amazed to hear the age of Cobre High School and said she thought it was well maintained. "You've done a good job of keeping up. The theater was a marvelous addition."
Carrillo said he wanted to put in a plug for the district's three early childhood programs.
"The kindergarten teachers say the students are well prepared by the programs," Carrillo said. "The district has to put in some of the funding, so it would help us to increase the Children, Youth and Families Department and the Public Education Department funding."
The next article will cover the Silver Consolidated Schools District presentation.