San Juan School District will build new Monument Valley school, renovate elsewhere

While a myriad of details remain to be worked out, the San Juan School District is making plans to build one new school and possibly renovate a handful more.

Ground will be broken for Monument Valley Elementary School in June, 2010 according to a planning document released by the district at the June 13 meeting of the San Juan School Board.

The elementary school is the last remaining facility named in a court-ordered consent decree which resulted in the construction of schools in southern San Juan County. Navajo Mountain High was the most recent school constructed in the district. It was dedicated in 1998.

The new elementary school in Monument Valley will replace the aging facility at Halchita near Mexican Hat. The district planning document states that "by relocating the school to Monument Valley, the area will have a greater sense of community and there will be a stronger tie between the elementary school and the high school."

In addition, having a new school closer to the population centers may result in higher enrollment in the schools.

A host of construction efforts are dramatically increasing the infrastructure in the Monument Valley area. In addition to a new elementary school, projects in varying state of completion in Monument Valley include a new health care facility, fire station, visitors center and motel/resort center.

After construction of the new school, the district plans to renovate existing school buildings on a rotational basis. Officials plan for significant renovation of the schools and not just cosmetic changes.

The document states that renovations "would most likely include replacing windows, plumbing, electrical, network and mechanical systems. Additionally, some portions of certain buildings may need to be demolished or replaced."

A host of schools in the District were built in the 1950s and 1960s. District business administrator Clayton Holt said that inefficient heating and cooling systems, single-pane windows, no accommodations for computer wiring, and 50 years of wear and tear are making the existing facilities increasingly expensive and difficult to maintain.

While the District is interested in replacing existing buildings with new schools, the high cost of construction may mean that renovation is more cost-effective than new construction. Replacing each of the district facilities with new construction would cost nearly $170 million.

Schools built in the 1950s and 60s include Monticello High, Blanding Elementary, Monticello Elementary, Albert R Lyman Middle School, and San Juan High.

Voters recently approved a new Voted Leeway that will generate approximately $2 million a year in local and state funding. Holt said the funds will be used for the construction projects.

Waiting until June, 2010 to begin Monument Valley Elementary School will allow the district to accumulate enough funds to complete the construction with little or no debt financing. Holt adds that the district could then expend $2 million a year on the renovation projects.

In addition to renovating existing buildings, the district has adopted a policy that elementary schools in each community would have a gymnasium similar to the facility at Monticello Elementary School.

The district will continue to provide for ongoing maintenance and capital improvements to existing buildings as needed prior to renovation.

In other matters at the June 13 school meeting, a $.10 increase in the price of school lunch was approved. Prices had not been adjusted in roughly a decade.

San Juan Record

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