Kirtland — Construction of the new elementary school in Naschitti is set to start in April.

That is according to an update members of the Central Consolidated School District received during a regular school board meeting Tuesday in the Kirtland board room.

A groundbreaking was originally scheduled for this month, but it was delayed because construction committee members could not meet at scheduled times and because of ongoing negotiations with the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority about services, said Dennis Fieldsted, coordinator of buildings and construction for the district.

The district will start advertising for proposals on Thursday, and recommendations for a contractor will be made to the school board in March.

The new school is estimated to cost $7.9 million. It will include a hogan shaped entryway, softball field, playground and outdoor basketball court.

The new facility is expected to have enough classroom space for 125 students and will be built adjacent to the current school's gymnasium.

Fieldsted said the school will be equipped with LED lighting, along with other "new green ideas."

"I think this will be a 21st century school," he said. "We're excited about it."

School board president Lupita White suggested having a groundbreaking and blessing done "because it seems like things are delaying us now."

A blessing could be possible, but not a groundbreaking because a contractor has not been selected, Fieldsted said.

The New Mexico Public Schools Facility Authority will fund 63 percent of the project and the district will cover the other 37 percent through funding from the 2009 bond election.

Also on Tuesday, board members approved graduation dates for the district's high schools.

Newcomb High School will have its graduation at 7 p.m. May 21, Career Prep High School at 7 p.m. May 23, Kirtland Central High School at 10 a.m. May 24 and Shiprock High School at 4:30 p.m. May 24.

Board members also voted 3 in favor and 2 opposed to remove the executive session item off the agenda.

The executive session was listed for the board to discuss litigation between the school district and its school union.

Last year, the New Mexico Public Employee Labor Relations Board ruled that the school district violated its union's collective bargaining agreement and public employee bargaining act.

The school district filed an appeal in November in the state's Second District Court in Albuquerque.

Board member Randy Manning repeatedly asked Superintendent Don Levinski why the lawsuit was filed without the board's consent and what in the district's policy and procedures authorizes the superintendent such action.

Levinski cited an opinion from the district's attorney that stated he was within his right to file the lawsuit.

After reviewing the letter, which was distributed to board members during the meeting, Manning said it did not state Levinski had the authority to file the lawsuit.

Manning motioned to have the item removed, and board member Hoskie Benally seconded the motion.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 and nsmith@daily-times.com. Follow her on Twitter @nsmithdt on Twitter.