FARMINGTON — San Juan College is looking at shifting its capital project priorities as funding wraps up for the new School of Energy building.

Board members on Tuesday evening approved the college's annual New Mexico Higher Education Department capital project priority submittal.

In August, state colleges can present projects for funding consideration for the upcoming legislative session.

San Juan College is looking at shifting away from new construction and rather converting and renovating existing facilities and improving infrastructure for the new school year.

The state Higher Education Department is approving more projects related to renovation and conversion than new building construction, said Garry Smothers, the college's physical plant assistant director.

"It's really realistic what we are asking the state for," Smothers said. "We believe if we are realistic, HED will reward that."

Conversion and renovation of laboratories and classrooms for science, technology, engineering, mathematics and health, or STEM-H, courses are the main focus of the project submittal.

"Our priorities have to rest with the STEM-H categories," Smothers said. "We're asking the HED folks to help us maintain our existing facilities and infrastructure with critical projects."

Five general purpose classrooms will be converted to three new science labs, and five new classrooms will be built, along with renovation of 43,238 square feet of existing science space built in 1975.

The cost is estimated at $7 million. The college is cover 25 percent, or $1.75 million, of the project.

About $5 million is projected for main campus infrastructure improvements. The two top priorities include replacement of the Henderson Fine Arts Center fire alarm system and replacement of Central Plant chillers and cooling towers.

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 and jkellogg@daily-times.com. Follow him @jkelloggdt on Twitter.