By Tony Parra
A New Mexico legislative committee approved a $2.5 million boost for the construction additions to the Brown Early Childhood Center in Portales, according to a press release on Tuesday.
Rep. Jose Campos made the announcement on Tuesday in the form of a press release. The $2.5 million will go to create a new Kindergarten wing and restrooms.
James Holloway, Portales Schools Superintendent, said the new Kindergarten wing and restrooms will be located on the north side of the Brown Early Childhood Center. The Brown Early Childhood Center is located in between 5th and 4th Streets. The new addition will be located in between 4th and 3rd Streets.
“There are some kids who are not prepared to be in the first grade,” Campos said. “It (money spent on technology) is an emphasis to have kids in the basic skill levels. There is a great need in areas were kids do not know English entering Kindergarten. Even if they learn it in Kindergarten, it’s still late, but we would like to get them going.”
Holloway said the Portales planning and zoning committee approved a request from the Portales schools district for the design of the construction project, requiring to close for thru-traffic on 4th street between Avenue D and Avenue E. Holloway said the request is because of the safety concern with children walking back and forth from the new wing to the current Brown Elementary building.
According to Holloway, Chris Rasmussen, an architect with Greer Stafford Architects of Albuquerque has already worked on the preliminary plans. He said the construction project still has to be approved by the city council. Holloway said officials would like to have a 14-classroom wing, but a 12-classroom wing is more realistic.
“It sends a message to the community, that we the state are concerned,” Campos said. “We want to have kids ready for elementary school. It shows that the taxpayers’ money is going to their community.”
The Public School Capitol Outlay Council made the decision last week based on school enrollment and classroom space needs, according to the press release. Holloway said state department officials have looked at the building and classroom sizes. Since 2002, $3 million in school construction and renovation for the Portales School District has been approved, the press release said.
Holloway said last year $1.5 million was approved for the project and with this year’s request, school officials will have $4 million for the project. Holloway said the amount of money is $700,000 under the original request.
“We feel we have ample amount of money to make the improvements,” Holloway said. “We have the money to make improvements to meet the standards of adequacy of classrooms. The standards have changed and the classrooms are required to be larger.”
Holloway said legislators have worked hard to allocate money for the Portales schools district. He said it is vital to have community support to be able to receive funding, especially when it comes to passing bonds such as the one which was passed in Feb. of 2001 for $8.5 million.
The result of the bond issue being passed was a mill property tax increase, translating to an annual increase of $124 in additional tax on a $100,000 property each year, according to Holloway in a Feb. 2001, Amarillo Globe-News article.
“This could not be possible without community support,” Holloway said. “This goes back to the $8.5 million bond over three years ago. Without us having a bond passed, we could not have done this.”