Ground was broken for the new elementary school on January 14, with an expected completion in time for the 2011-12 school year beginning August, 2011. The new school will replace the aging Mexican Hat Elementary School.
The initial budget for the facility was $9 million. School officials were dismayed when the bids came in over $10 million. However, the MHTN architectural firm and Hogan/Tri-Hurst Contractors were able to “value engineer” more than $350,000 in costs off of the project.
The school board approved the budget for the school but added that it is not likely that a $2.5 million budget for housing at the new school will be changed.
School District Business Manager Clayton Holt said that some of the increased costs are due to the remote location of Monument Valley. He added that the final bids came in very close to the $180 per square foot estimate of the initial budget. The square footage increased during the design phase when the school district added a Pre-K facility for preschool programs at the school. Other elementary schools in the district have a Pre-K facility.
In other matters at the January 20 board meeting, the district held a public hearing to discuss the Impact Aid program. The federal government provides up to $6 million a year to the district because of the high number of students from Native American reservations. The program is a payment in lieu of taxes since no local property tax is collected on the reservations.
The funds are placed in the school district general fund and are used in a variety of areas, including bilingual language programs, all day kindergarten programs, lowered student / teacher ratios, teacher aides, in-service training, construction and renovation of buildings, and many more.
The board discussed snow days within the district. The following days included two snow days for many areas of the district and closure of all schools on January 22.
When the closures were determined, the San Juan County Sheriffs Office sent out a “reverse 911” telephone call to known telephone numbers in areas affected by the school closures. The call was a recorded message stating the schools would be closed in the area.
The calls went to the La Sal, Monticello, and Blanding areas for the January 22 closure and throughout the county for the January 23 closure.
In other matters, the board renewed the contract of Superintendent Doug Wright for another two years.