FROM THE PUBLISHER

Bond issue, levy will improve experiences for students

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In addition to an array of candidates for local elections, your Nov. 2 ballot will feature two questions regarding the Las Cruces Public Schools.

First is a school bond issue, that will retain $50 million in bonds without increasing your tax rate.

Second is a public school capital improvements levy based on your property values.

“Education is always a good investment for our country,” said LCPS Superintendent Ralph Ramos.

Most of the plans for the school system’s bond will shore up buildings and facilities.

“The majority of our buildings are older buildings,” said Kelly Jameson, public information officer for LCPS.

As an example, two elementary schools – Cesar Chavez and Hermosa Heights – need new roofs. The combined cost is $4.1 million.

If you’re like me, you still think of the Field of Dreams as “new.” But the stadium is more than 20 years old now. The track around the field is showing its age, breaking apart in places, creating potentially injury-inducing hazards for our young athletes. The bond issue would spend a little more than $1 million resurfacing the track and adding dugouts to the Field of Dreams softball fields.

Zia Middle School has a crumbling interior wall threatening safety, and the bus loop needs re-routing to prevent traffic hazards on University Avenue. Those renovations combine to more than $2 million.

Unfortunately, safety in our schools has become a nationwide concern. Safety includes proper fencing, intercoms and security doors. The bond will include $1,375,000 to make those modifications at Central, Cesar Chavez, Doña Ana, Hermosa Heights, Hillrise, Mesilla, Mesilla Park, Sunrise and University Hills elementary schools, Lynn Middle School and Mayfield High School.

One of my favorite segments of the bond issue is the Enriched Learning Opportunities. This goes for two important learning centers. One is for Early Childhood and the other for Career and Technical Education. Increased opportunities for early childhood are invaluable. We all know how well the youngest children can learn when exposed to new things. I’ve long been a believer in the value of vocational education or, as Ramos puts it, “experiential learning.” There is a growing shortage of people who can work construction, plumbing, welding and other trades that often produce careers more lucrative than many college degrees. We need to make sure our young people can experience as much as possible so they can make more informed decisions about their career paths. These learning centers will not be cheap. The price tag of $3.3 million covers planning, conceptual design and infrastructure. If you ask me, though, this bond is the best way to cover that expense.

The bond includes kitchen remodels at Highland Elementary and Lynn Middle School, districtwide modifications for compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, solar energy solutions, new maintenance facilities, land acquisitions and, the biggie, $15 million for the rebuild of Columbia Elementary, which is scheduled to re-open in fall of 2024. If you’ll recall, a few years ago, widespread dangerous mold was found throughout the original Columbia, forcing its shutdown and eventual demolition.

The capital improvements mill levy helps pay for basic maintenance and equipment, including furniture and playground improvements.

Adults are always talking about how important our children are, about how we need to do right by our kids, and how the youth are our future.

If you’re among those who regularly repeat that refrain, here’s your chance to put your ballot mark where your mouth is: Vote yes on the school bond and the school improvements levy.

Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 2, and early voting is going on right now.

Richard Coltharp