The school's long-awaited administration offices were included in the school's master plan but were put off in favor of constructing dormitories and other student facilities. The school's board of directors is self-funding the $796,166 project through its investment fund and a 15-year loan from Wells Fargo.
"When we did the various phases of our school project, we made the administration building our last priority," said Betty Ojaye, the school's executive director. "We as administration, we are the head of the school. You, the students, are the heart. This building will centralize all of us.
Ojaye brought out water she gathered near Silverton earlier in the week to bless the site before breaking ground.
"I thought it would be very appropriate to bless the site with this water," she said. "They say that water is the life giver. It is pure. We want to make this symbolic of that. Water is humble. As leaders, we should always remember to be humble."
Construction of an administration building was ranked lower on the school's list of priorities, but the time has now come when it can no longer be put off, said Jennifer Laughter, board vice president.
"There's the new facilities," said Laughter, pointing toward the dormitories, gym and other parts on the central cluster on the main campus. "Those were more of our priorities."
The administration's current offices are housed in space originally set aside for classroom space and for other academic offices, Ojaye said.
"We need the administration building as the center point of our school," Laughter said. "We, as a board, look at the leadership of Ms. Ojaye. We look forward to this new facility, but we're still looking for funds for other projects, like the (planned) fine arts building."
The vision for the school began in 1991 as a college preparatory school for Navajo students, Ojaye said.
Around 1993, the Navajo Nation purchased the 83-acre campus and existing buildings from the United Methodist Church for about $575,000, she said.
"Then we developed our campus master plan," Ojaye said.
The plan's four phases called for new dormitories, renovating the old dormitories into classrooms, a new gymnasium and student center and the administration building and fine arts center, she said.
"The fine arts center will cost about $4 million to build," Ojaye said. "It's already been designed, and it's ready to go."
In total, the master plan's projects carry an estimated cost of $43 million, she said.
But the tough economy could make carrying out the last part of the master plan more difficult.
"Funding for construction projects is getting harder to come by," Ojaye said. "We just need to find the funds."
Greg Yee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 505-564-4606. Follow him on Twitter @GYeeDT