The district board of education learned the status of its facility master plan during Thursday's board meeting. A representative from Greer Stafford, the Albuquerque architecture firm that the district works with to improve its facilities, presented a report on the plan.
The facility master plan was put together in 2010 as a guide to improving the district's facilities in the next few years. The district is expected to cover about 37 percent of the costs for the projects, and the state will pay for the remainder.
Overall, the district has about $97.3 million of renovations included in its facility master plan, including some that already are in the works.
The plan that received the most heat was the proposed combination of two Kirtland elementary schools, Ruth N. Bond and Grace B. Wilson elementary schools.
The plan calls for students from both schools to be combined under one roof, creating a kindergarten through sixth-grade school. Right now, Ruth N. Bond serves students in kindergarten to third grade, and Grace B. Wilson has fourth- through sixth-graders.
The new school building will likely be located at the site off U.S. Highway 64 that the two schools now share and will use parts of the schools' current facilities. How the new school would be managed has not yet been decided.
"Sounds like a decision that is already made," said district school board member Randy Manning on Thursday.
Manning said the idea had not been brought up during a district school board meeting, even though the district already has submitted a pre-application to the state. The application is to seek assistance in funding the proposed project.
"Personally, I really like our arrangement now. We're very much separate," said Steve Carlson, principal at Grace B. Wilson in a phone interview on Friday. "But, it's rather a long-range plan at this point."
Carlson said he has heard little of the plan, though he has heard it discussed several times in recent years. In terms of the budget, it makes sense, he said, because it would cost less to manage one school.
The plan is only an "if" at this point, according to school district spokesman James Preminger in a Friday phone interview. He said the district likely will hold meetings for public input in June.
"We're waiting until we're doing it to go to the community," said Manning at the board meeting. "I'm not saying it's not the best thing. It's going to be a hard sell."
The school district's plans for other improvements brought a sense of relief to many.
Students and employees alike were relieved to hear of plans to replace the heating and air conditioning systems at Kirtland Central, Shiprock and Newcomb high schools.
For years, students and staff have complained of discomfort during late summer and early fall because of the poorly functioning air conditioning systems.
"In one classroom, it will be burning hot and you will be sweating," said Danni Eddleman, 16, a junior at Kirtland Central High School on Friday. "On the other side, it's freezing, even though it's flip-flop weather. You freeze your toes off."
The new heating and air conditioning systems are expected to cost about $10.9 million for Kirtland Central and about $4 million for Shiprock High. The cost of Newcomb High's new system was not listed in the presentation to the school board, though Preminger said that the school also would get a new system.
The district currently is working on and completing a handful of other projects. Among them are renovations for elementary schools in Shiprock totaling about $8.4 million, construction of a new Naschitti Elementary School for about $5.8 million and construction of a new gym for Newcomb High School, which is expected to cost about $4.5 million.
In addition to their new heating and cooling systems, Shiprock, Kirtland Central and Newcomb high schools all are scheduled for other renovations, with Kirtland Central's being the most expensive. Kirtland Central is slated for $30.9 million worth of renovations, Shiprock for $7 million and Newcomb for $12.7 million.
Additionally, Newcomb Elementary School is scheduled for a $12.7 million in renovations; Ruth N. Bond, $15.4 million; and Tse' Bit Ai Middle School, about $13.6 million.
Jenny Kane can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 505-564-4636. Follow her on Twitter @Jenny_Kane.