Home News Local News RISD board approves Sidney Gutierrez expansion

RISD board approves Sidney Gutierrez expansion

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Yasine Armstrong, president of the Sidney Gutierrez Middle School governing council, and Principal Joe Andreis stand before the Roswell Independent School District school board to answer questions about the expansion of Roswell’s only charter school. (Alison Penn Photo)

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Sidney Gutierrez Middle School received approval Tuesday night from the Roswell Independent School District Board of Education to expand to kindergarten and elementary grades, with some school board members indicating that Roswell families will benefit by the high-performing school serving more students.

“As many of you know, part of the mission of a charter school is to try something in a smaller environment and then be able to expand and extend it if it goes really well,” said Yasine Armstrong, vice president of the school’s governing council, which voted for the charter expansion Aug. 20.

She then referred to the school’s receipt of “A” grades from the New Mexico Public Education Department for seven consecutive years, ever since the state instituted a school grading system.

“It is also a great time to do it,” Armstrong told RISD board members, “because the state of New Mexico actually has some federal funding to help expand and replicate charter schools, so we are going to the state and requesting a grant to help us do the expansion of the school.”

As indicated in a written charter amendment request submitted to the school district, Sidney Gutierrez plans to begin teaching 64 students in kindergarten through second grades by fall 2019, if funding for expanded facilities is obtained. If not, K-2 would be offered starting in fall 2020. The school then will add an additional grade each year so that kindergarten through fifth grade will be taught by 2022 or 2023.

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Total enrollment for K-5 would be 130 students, added to the 66 pupils Sidney Gutierrez is now allowed for the sixth through eighth grades.

According to Sidney Gutierrez governing council members, they already have explored a few options for leasing new buildings, acquiring portable buildings or adding onto the existing building on Gail Harris Street in the Roswell International Air Center district.

All options require additional funding, either from the state, foundations or philanthropic groups.

“If it is this year we get the funding, great, and we move forward or if it is two years from now, we already have permission to engage in that type of activity and not violate the contract we have between this governing council and the RISD,” said Principal Joe Andreis, who added that the middle school’s charter renewal for 2020 to 2024 already has been approved.

The charter amendment was unanimously approved by all five RISD board members, as well as recommended by RISD Superintendent Dr. Ann McIlroy.

Ruben Sanchez was one of several board members praising the charter school’s educational performance and the work of administrators and teachers.

“Thank you guys for wearing those numerous hats and making sure these guys are successful and come back to be productive citizens of this district, hopefully, in the future,” he said.

The New Mexico Public Education Department does not have a direct role in the charter decision, but a spokesman expressed support for the expansion.

“The PED is interested in having as many high-quality schools for students in New Mexico as possible, and Sidney Gutierrez Middle School is an example of sustained excellence, having received seven ‘A’ grades in a row,” said Public Information Officer Christopher Eide. “We look forward to the opportunity to continue to celebrate the incredible work of that school community.”

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.