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Charter school won’t expand at church building

Yasine Armstrong of the Sidney Gutierrez Middle School Governing Council and Principal Joe Andreis talk with Roswell Independent School District board members in November 2018 about their expansion plans. (File Photo)

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Sidney Gutierrez council to look for other options for K-5 classes

The governing council for Sidney Gutierrez Middle School will continue to look for new facilities for its planned expansion into kindergarten and elementary grades.

Yasine Armstrong, vice president of the council, said the group voted unanimously at a special board meeting Thursday to consider other options rather than proceed with tentative plans to operate K-5 classes in the First United Methodist Church building at North Pennsylvania Avenue and West Second Street.

“There just became too many regulatory issues to be able to overcome, so that took that choice off the table for us,” she said.

Armstrong, who is spearheading the facilities search for the council, explained that the New Mexico Public Education Department has many requirements to meet classroom occupancy standards.

“It was becoming very clear that both the cost estimate and a timeline in order to achieve some of those (renovations) were going to be out of reach, especially with an August 2020 open date,” she said. “I want to underscore that both parties, both us and the wonderful leadership of the church, were really trying to make it work.”

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She said that now the council and the school administration will consider placing modular or portable units at the current school site, which is on Gail Harris Street at the Roswell Air Center.

Principal Joe Andreis had said at a previous meeting that the school was not likely to receive state funding by being on the state’s school facilities priority list because of its small enrollment. It typically has about 22 students for each grade, which is currently sixth through eighth. The charter is expecting the funds for new classrooms to come from grants, philanthropic groups and the money raised by the school’s nonprofit foundation.

The city’s only charter school, Sidney Gutierrez received approval in November 2018 from the Roswell Independent School District Board of Education to begin offering kindergarten and elementary classes to up to 130 students. School and district leaders said that it was a way to take a successful educational program and expand it to more people in Roswell.

Sidney Gutierrez Middle School was started in November 2000, and it consistently has been ranked as one of the best performing middle schools in New Mexico by the state and various educational data sites. It has also received an “A” grade from the New Mexico Public Education Department each year that grades were given.

In June 2019, the governing council began working with a local architect, Hal Barnett, to assess the second floor of the church. The council realized from the beginning that many concerns had to be addressed, including lighting, heating and cooling, security systems, fire suppression systems and compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act requirements.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.

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Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.