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Aztec High School will convert classrooms affected by shooting into student lounge
Audio from police dispatches on Dec. 7, 2017, regarding the shooting at Aztec High School in Aztec, N.M. Wochit
Computer rooms will be repurposed over holiday break
FARMINGTON — Two classrooms in Aztec High School will be repurposed into a student lounge dedicated to the memory of the victims of last week's school shooting.
Francisco "Paco" Fernandez and Casey Jordan Marquez, both 17, died during an attack by 21-year-old William Atchison on Dec. 7 at Aztec High School.
Aztec Municipal School District Superintendent Kirk Carpenter said the nonstructural walls of two computer labs on the second floor of the high school will be knocked down to create an open space where students can study and gather.
“We’re going to try to redesign a current area, a lounge area with new and exciting furniture for them that can be comfortable areas for students who may have, say, open classes in their schedule, or a place where they feel comfortable at lunch,” Carpenter said.
"This is their high school, and this is going to be their place," Carpenter added. "They’re going to name it, and they’re going to have some input on some of that, so we’ll get the basic design opened up and make sure we take care of the structural things, but we absolutely want their involvement, because, like I said, this is their high school, and no one is going to change that.”
Plans are still being developed for the new commons area, but the space likely will include computers, TVs and other technology for student use. Students and the staff will be involved in the details of the planning, and the district will work with interior designers to make the new lounge “current and exciting,” Carpenter said.
The district plans to have the room finished by the time students return from winter break on Jan. 4, Carpenter said. The work that will be done over the break involves demolition of the walls and some cosmetic repairs before the repurposing and redesign — which will also include new paint and furniture — begins.
Carpenter said he didn’t have a cost estimate for repurposing the computer labs into a lounge, but that “it’s not going to be expensive because it’s mostly demolition.”
A GoFundMe page was established by Katauna Lucas to collect community donations to provide furniture for the project. The campaign met its $2,500 goal over the course of the day Tuesday, and 32 people donated a total of $2,530 for the project, according to the donation page.
Lucas is the owner of and designer for a Farmington-based interior design company, Innovative Interiors, that will donate interior design services to the district. Lucas said she will work with a group of community members from AHS to make designs for the remodeled space.
“I just feel honored and humbled that I can help do something to bring healing and change. Anything else I can do to help the families and the community heal from the tragedy — that’s my intent,” Lucas said.
Two students from Aztec High School in Aztec, New Mexico, describe the chaotic scene at the school when a gunman opened fire Thursday morning, December 7, 2017. One student's cousin was killed in the shooting.Tom Tingle/azcentral.com
Carpenter and Lucas both said the GoFundMe fundraiser is not sanctioned or organized by the district. Carpenter said the district will provide funding for the project in addition to the money raised in the GoFundMe page.
Lucas said the GoFundMe page was “a knee-jerk reaction” and encouraged anyone who wants to help fund the project or otherwise donate to recovery efforts to contact the district in order to follow procedures for school donations.
In the aftermath of the Dec. 7 tragedy, the New Mexico Public Education Department made $120,000 in emergency funding available to the district. Carpenter said that emergency funding has paid for counseling and mental health services for students and staff members, and that the services will continue as the academic year goes into the spring semester.
Megan Petersen covers business and education for The Daily Times. Reach her at 505-564-4621 or email@example.com.