San Juan County students starting elementary, middle and high school return to school

Joshua Kellogg
The Daily Times

FARMINGTON — Many San Juan County students started school on Monday, and the rest will go back to their classrooms on Tuesday.

Students starting elementary, middle and high school in the Aztec, Bloomfield and Farmington school districts came back to school a day earlier than their peers, a move that staff said helps the students adjust to their new surroundings.

The remaining students will start school Tuesday. Students at Farmington's Northeast Elementary and Hermosa Middle School are set to return to school Thursday to give teachers time to prepare their classrooms. Construction recently wrapped up on both new school buildings.

On Monday, Farmington High School freshmen got a first-hand look at the new, three-story building crews are constructing on their campus. Construction on the new building — the first phase of the high school construction project — is expected to continue during the school year. The new campus is scheduled to be finished in 2018.

Freshman Annalise Smith said the ongoing construction made getting around the school a little difficult, but the staff were friendly.

"It's pretty good," she said. "It's kind of hot, but I haven't gotten lost yet."

The freshmen on Monday participated in several activities, including a scavenger hunt, beach ball bowling and a water balloon relay.

Freshman Kalea Brucks said she was nervous about the first day of school until she took part in the morning activities.

"It made me less nervous and made me feel more welcomed here," she said. "I made a few new friends because of those."

All students in the Central Consolidated School District returned to school Monday.

Work on the fire alarm system at the portable classrooms behind Grace B. Wilson Elementary School in Kirtland forced students from Ruth N. Bond Elementary to spend their first day at the closed Ruth N. Bond school, according to CCSD spokesman James Preminger.

Portions of Ruth N. Bond are scheduled to be demolished to make way for the new Judy Nelson Elementary School. In the meantime, Ruth N. Bond students are being housed in the portables.

The new Judy Nelson school, which will accommodate 715 students from kindergarten to sixth grade, is on track to open for the next school year, Preminger said.

Students had to be relocated to the old Ruth N. Bond building after new fire alarm equipment was installed Saturday to link the fire alarm system at the 11 portables with the existing system at Grace B. Wilson, Preminger said.

Ruth N. Bond students were set up in temporary classrooms at the school as the district waits for approval to use the portables from the State Fire Marshal's Office.

Preminger said officials from the office were at the school Monday, and the district expects to receive its certificate of occupancy for the portables soon.

In Shiprock, students at Dream Diné Charter School spent their first day in a new facility.

Students previously had their classrooms at the Head Start building in Hogback, but this year, they were relocated to four portable classrooms behind the Shiprock Chapter house.

Director of Operations Gavin Sosa said the school received approval from the State Fire Marshal's Office last week to occupy the portables. As a charter school on the Navajo Nation governed by the New Mexico Education Department, Sosa said it took longer than expected to receive state and tribal approval for the classrooms.

This year, the school added a second grade class, in addition to kindergarten and first grade. Total enrollment is 32, with 17 new students and 15 returning.

"A ton of families stuck around to hang out with the (students), to take pictures and watch their children," Sosa said of the first day.

Students at the school are split into two mixed-age classes, with one teacher leading kindergarten and first-grade students and another teaching first- and second-grade students.

Sosa said students spent most of the first day taking a walking tour around the new facility.

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