When construction starts on Nancy Lopez Elementary in about two years, students and staff might not have to endure the noise and distraction of the work.
If all goes the way Roswell Independent School District plans, Nancy Lopez Elementary will temporarily be up the street, in the west wing of Mesa Middle School. Mesa students and staff would be in a newly renovated building with new classroom space.
Design plans for Mesa, including using it as a swing space for Nancy Lopez, were revealed to the RISD Board of Education at its meeting Tuesday evening.
The design for Mesa will add a second gymnasium with bleacher seating for 600, a new two-story wing of classrooms, a pick-up and drop-off plaza and a new track and field. The project would be half renovation and half new construction.
Using Mesa as swing space would mean an accelerated construction schedule for Nancy Lopez and keeping the elementary school’s students and staff separate from the construction, said RISD Construction Coordinator Mac Rogers.
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“We’ve realized as we’ve moved Mesa Middle School to the east, that there’s an opportunity for these vacated classrooms for Nancy Lopez,” Rogers said.
“Nancy Lopez has a smaller site, so it would be difficult to have school operations and construction operations on the same site,” he said.
“They’ll actually be in a building instead of portables. Those principals who have been through that know that during construction in portables, it’s even worse than being inside because the shaking and noise is tenfold,” Superintendent Mike Gottlieb said.
Students of the two schools would likely have to share cafeteria and gym space for the duration, but those are details that will be worked out with building principals in the future, Rogers said.
Once construction is completed on Nancy Lopez, the older wing of Mesa would be demolished, Gottlieb said.
The plan still has to receive approval of the New Mexico Public School Capital Outlay Council, which is providing 71% matching funds for both projects.
Rogers and Gottlieb said they believe the PSCOC would be in favor of the plan.
“I’m hoping PSCOC sees the initiative that the board and the district is taking in providing a safe and more secure area for the students as we move forward,” Gottlieb said.
The total cost of the Mesa project is estimated at $21 million with RISD paying $6.1 million. The district will likely start the bidding process in October or November with January targeted for the start of construction, Chad Cole, assistant superintendent for finance and operations, said.
Construction is expected to be finished in summer of 2022.
How much of the Nancy Lopez project will be new construction versus renovation is not yet known. The education specifications process to determine the school’s needs will begin soon. Those specifications will aid the design.
The cost of the Nancy Lopez project is estimated at $11 million, Cole said, with the district paying $3.2 million.
The district is well-set for paying for the projects, Cole told the board.
“We currently have $11 million in cash in our bond fund, thanks to the voters of Chaves County,” Cole said.
The district has another $7 million in the bond fund yet to issue, he said. The district had planned a sale last year, but held off due to market conditions. The COVID-19 pandemic has further postponed the sale, but Cole said he plans to propose a sale to the board later this year.
“That would put us at $18 million cash in the bank and the bond fund for these projects,” he said.
In addition, the district has $6 million it set aside in a capital outlay fund earlier this year, Gottlieb said.
That should be beneficial if the PSCOC runs out of available funds due to the economic conditions, Cole and Gottlieb said, or if costs increase before construction begins.
“The decisions we’re making right now will impact what we’re able to do two years from now,” Cole said.
Gottlieb said covering the financial aspects of the projects is important to stay accountable to the public and will help secure bonds for future construction projects. Beyond Mesa and Nancy Lopez, the district is looking at major projects for Mountain View Middle School, Washington Avenue Elementary School and Roswell High School.
“When you promise the community you’re going to do something, then you better do it and you figure out a way to get it done. It’s way past time for Mesa and Nancy Lopez, Mountain View and Washington Avenue,” Gottlieb said.
Rogers also gave an update on Del Norte Elementary School. The district received a temporary certificate of occupancy this week, which will allow teachers to start setting up their classrooms.
The board discussed setting a ribbon cutting for the school on Sept. 3.
“I think the building is going to be something our community can be proud of for years to come,” Rogers said.
City/RISD reporter Juno Ogle can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or firstname.lastname@example.org.