New San Antonio School facility plans progressing slowly, at least two years out

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The Socorro Consolidated School District has been planning and developing an idea for a new school and playgrounds in San Antonio for a couple of years. There are at least a couple more to go before the plan may come to fruition.

The issue is not necessarily funding, but rather in addressing real estate needs and complexities.

Elva K. Osterreich/El Defensor Chieftain: Students from San Antonio Elementary School plant native plants at the visitors center at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge during the 2012-2013 school year. Socorro Consolidated Schools students often get opportunities to work in environmentally unique areas.

The Public School Facilities Association will provide 77 percent of the funding for a new school, and the district will be responsible for the other 23 percent. However, the district intends to build on land adjacent to where the school is now located, and a part of the school grounds is located on Bureau of Land Management property now.

“The goal is also to build closer to (U.S. Highway) 380,” JohnRay Dennis, the lead teacher at San Antonio School, said. “They are trying to determine where the entrance should go.”

The district is in discussion with the BLM about purchasing the land adjacent to the school. There is talk about Socorro County having an interest in taking over the old buildings.

The original building was built in 1928, and has been operational all through its history. There have been a number of additions and remodels, including the addition of a cafeteria and kitchen.

A new gymnasium was built in the mid-1970s. The newest additions are a kitchen and computer lab, built in 2000.

The current problems with the school are mostly not related to the structure itself, but rather to issues such as flooding in the playground when it rains, the fact that the building is not up to some codes and other related issues.

“The school is pretty sound, structurally,” Dennis said. “It’s issues like drainage, classroom size and other such concerns.”

The next steps in planning, in addition to working through the real estate matter, is to contract with an architect. This can occur simultaneously with the real estate work. Still, the project is at least two years out because most land deals with the BLM require two years. That alone will slow the progress of the new school. A number of surveys and reports must first be filed, including the mineral report, environmental site assessment, a cultural inventory and biological inventory/report.

Superintendent Randall Earwood requests that BLM retirees and former employees volunteer with the school district to assist with conducting surveys and collecting/analyzing. For more information, or to volunteer, contact Earwood at the Socorro Consolidated School District, 575-838-3114. In the meantime, the teachers and other staff at the school are already preparing for another school year.