$19 million is the amount Santa Fe Public Schools’ Board of Education proposes to spend on building a new south-side school.
$5 million is the amount the board proposes to spend on unspecified renovations at Atalaya Elementary School.
"As a board member representing a community that is bursting at the seams, with anywhere from 500 to 600 kids per elementary school, it’s difficult for me…to support that $5 million for a school with  kids enrolled." —Board Secretary Linda Trujillo
At the Sept. 20 meeting of the Santa Fe Public Schools Board of Education, SFPS Chief Operations Officer Kristy Janda Wagner presented a “reprioritization” of the existing Facilities Master Plan, which outlines the district’s construction and renovation plans.
Nineteen million dollars will go to construct a south-side school for between 500 and 600 students. But several board members were dismayed that more money wasn’t allocated to that project, instead of to renovations at Atalaya Elementary School. The Citizens Review Committee voted Sept. 14 on the distribution, after a contentious debate, board member Frank Montaño noted.
“The biggest impediment for getting some money for the south-side school was the fact that half the membership of the CRC felt that $5 million should stay [with Atalaya] and even more—there were attempts to grow that to $10 million,” Montaño said.
Atalaya had originally been slated for renovations in preparation for consolidation with Acequia Madre Elementary, but architect Claudio Vigil determined the school should be completely rebuilt.
The same thing happened earlier this year when Vigil, who was hired to direct the renovations of Agua Fria, suggested a total rebuild instead. That project is on hold amid cost-estimate problems, and the consolidation idea was scrapped. But $5 million is still budgeted to repair Atalaya, even though other schools such as Capital High School and Ortiz Middle School got no allocations at all.
The funding tug-of-war points to problems in the determination of schools’ needs, President Barbara Gudwin told the board.
“It became very apparent that whoever put together the wish list for the bond cycle, it was incomplete in terms of what was presented to us as needs,” Gudwin said.