The school board allocates more funds toward high school for early college opportunities

June 21 — Santa Fe school board members have committed nearly an additional $4.5 million to one of the early stages of an ongoing construction project at Early College Opportunities High School — as a result of rising building materials costs, an official said.

The additional money, which brings the project’s budget to more than $20 million, will come from emergency funds from general commitment bonds that voters approved in 2017 and 2021.

“Over the past two years, we’ve seen this massive escalation of supply chain issues,” Gabe Romero, region’s chief operating officer, told the board of directors in a Thursday meeting.

Santa Fe Public Schools aims to expand enrollment in practical schools to 400 students compared to 150 in 2021-22, with a slate of children awaiting enrollment in a program that allows them to earn professional certificates and associate degrees through community college courses while also earning a diploma.

But such an expansion would require an overhaul of the ECO campus on Zia Road.

“If we are able to build it, then we will be able to promote it and actually increase enrollment,” Supervisor Hilario “Larry” Chavez said at the board meeting.

Phase 1B of the ECO Campus project, now underway, includes the construction of a mixed-use gymnasium, a new classroom building, and administration offices.

Nearly $10.1 million was allocated to the project when district voters approved a public commitment bond in 2017.

The district transferred an additional $3.5 million in bond funds to the ECO to cover project costs in spring 2021 after increases in construction costs hampered the district’s ability to hire a contractor to work within its budget.

In 2021, voters approved another public commitment bond, earmarking approximately $14.5 million for the ECO—including $2.7 million for Phase 1B. As part of the phase, the neighborhood demolished the school’s old technical professional building to create space for administrative offices and a gymnasium.

“This has always been a need for the campus,” Romero said Thursday.

The project in progress is part of a larger ECO vision developed in 2018 that would replace portable buildings on campus with permanent structures and renovate existing facilities.

Dax Contreras, a member of the District’s Community Review Committee, said the additional funding approved Thursday is “the best option out of many good options. That’s why we voted unanimously to support this. Otherwise, the next step is to start having to cancel projects. Fortunately, this is the world we live in now.”

Romero warned the board that other construction and renovation projects funded by the bonds may need to be reassessed due to higher prices.

“We will probably have to make tougher decisions than this as we go forward,” he said.

Chairman Kate Noble and members Sasha Anderson and Sarah Bossis approved the new assignment. The meeting was not attended by Vice Chairman Rudy Garcia and member Carmen Gonzalez.

Boss expressed confidence in the move and said the area team involved in supervising construction projects was “very good” at moving projects for completion.

“The ECO reallocation does not affect any other projects for 2021,” Busis said in a text message on Monday. But it used a lot of emergency funds.”

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