Home News Local News 2021 was an eventful year for Roswell schools

2021 was an eventful year for Roswell schools

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Roswell Independent School District officially started its next construction project — renovations and additions to Mesa Middle School — with a ceremonial groundbreaking Oct. 8. Taking part in the groundbreaking were, from left, Jeremy Sanchez, RISD construction coordinator; Mary Jane Click, seventh grade math teacher; Alberto Cruz, head of Mesa’s maintenance department; RISD school board member James Edwards; former RISD superintendent Mike Gottlieb; RISD superintendent Brian Luck; Assistant Principal Jamie Watson; Principal Marcos Franco; and Security Guard Santos Franco. (Daily Record File Photo)

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

For the Roswell Independent School District, 2021 began with students still in remote learning but ended with students in classrooms, on sports fields and participating in other extracurricular activities in person.

In between there were several other events that on their own would have made for a remarkable year for the district.

Administrators and teachers scrambled to prepare for a hybrid model of learning — with half the students alternating between remote learning and in-person learning two days each week — after the governor announced in late January schools could do so starting Feb. 8.

After the governor’s announcement, the RISD Board of Education voted to start hybrid learning on Feb. 17, phasing in students first at the elementary levels. While the district was ready by then, extremely cold weather changed plans as diesel fuel in buses gelled, and controlled power outages due to higher demand shut down the district’s servers.

The transition to full-time in-person learning in March went more smoothly, however, and in June the 2020-21 school year ended with in-person graduations for each high school.

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A mask-wearing mandate for the return in the fall brought controversy, however, and a resolution by the RISD board asking the Public Education Department for more local autonomy brought an overflow crowd to the August board meeting with many people demanding the board take a strong stance against the PED’s back-to-school requirements.

Several of those in attendance urged the board to join a lawsuit filed in October 2020 by 18 school districts in the state, accusing the PED secretary of overstepping his authority in back-to-school requirements. The board never considered joining the lawsuit, however.

Others at that meeting, including representatives of Concerned Citizens of New Mexico, threatened a recall effort against board members if they didn’t take a stand against the PED, although no such action was ever taken.

The three incumbents in the November election all saw challengers, however, and the results saw two of them unseated by newcomers who will be sworn in at January’s board meeting.

Ryan French defeated Mona Kirk for the District 1 seat while John Cheney won the the District 3 seat from Milburn Dolen. James Edwards retained his seat against challenger Guy Malone. The challengers each ran on a platform of more local control for the board.

Prior to the election, the board completed two major accomplishments. The first was selecting a new superintendent, Brian Luck, who had been Goddard High School principal for nine years.

The board also approved a new English language arts curriculum, giving the district its first new program for teaching reading and language in a decade.

Approval of the Core Knowledge Language Arts program met some initial resistance when it was first introduced to the board in July, however. Board members Edwards, Dolen and Hilda Sanchez voted against the adoption at that time, citing concerns that the PED had not yet released its list of approved programs.

When the curriculum was brought before the board in October — after the PED released its list — the board approved the adoption of CKLA unanimously. Teacher training in the curriculum has begun and it is expected to be implemented across all grades in fall 2022.

The district also saw the beginning of a new construction project with a groundbreaking in October for Mesa Middle School. The 16-month project will add a second gymnasium, a two-story wing for classrooms, a pick-up-and drop-off plaza and a new track and field, with about half the project new construction and half renovation.

The project is expected to cost $22 million, with 71% of the funds provided by the New Mexico Public School Capital Outlay Council. The district will pay about $6.1 million, funded from the final $7 million of $14 million in general obligation bonds approved by Chaves County voters in 2019.

City/RISD reporter Juno Ogle can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or reporter04@rdrnews.com.

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