Back to School

BELEN — When students go back to school in the Belen Consolidated Schools district on Wednesday, Aug. 2, there won’t be a lot of major changes.

“We are going to continue on with what we started when I first became superintendent three years ago,” said BCS Superintendent Lawrence Sanchez. “We will be using data to see what we’re doing well and can continue doing well, and to focus on getting better.”

Teachers and administrators will focus on the research-based data that guides school improvement, Sanchez said, in order to make sure the district has equity for all students and builds a good culture for learning.

BCS Superintendent Lawrence Sanchez

“We want to improve leadership at all levels, make sure our instructional infrastructure is there, working with teachers to provide the professional development they need so they can stay up to speed with new methods and requirements from (the state public education department),” the superintendent said. “We will be supporting teachers and principals so they can concentrate on working with students.”

The district is also able to foot the bill for the majority of school supplies students will need across all grade levels, with few exceptions.

Sanchez said thanks to funding left over from last year’s K-5 Plus program and Extended Learning Time program, basics, such as lined paper, pencils and pens, will be covered.

“This was very specific funding we have to spend on students in the classroom,” he said. “This is a way we can help out the community and take away some of that cost.”

For students at schools that didn’t participate in either of those two programs, federal COVID funds are being used to purchase supplies at those sites.

Thanks to an initiative out of the governor’s office, breakfasts and lunches will be free to all students statewide, Sanchez said.

“This is making sure our kids are being fed,” he said. “Our student nutrition coordinator is working hard to going back to more scratch cooking this year.

“Our kitchens are very well supplied, and during COVID we were doing more getting food into the hands of students rather than preparing food.

“We got into habits because we had to, so there’s a statewide initiative to get back to that cooking from scratch and making things fresh.”

This school year is also bringing a focus on infrastructure spending and improvements, the superintendent said. From security to wireless internet to parking lots, there are projects planned for every school in the district.

“One of the projects is to make sure all our sites have secure vestibules, so that gaining access to a building doesn’t give access to the whole building,” Sanchez said. “Like anything, that requires planning and funding.”

Wireless systems at school sites have been targeted for capacity upgrades so more devices can be connected.

“We are putting a lot of money on remodeling and replacing bathrooms, outdoor play surfaces, new flooring and equipment,” he said. “We are not changing a lot of things in the classroom, except the new social studies  standards, but we are putting a lot of resources into making sure our learning environments are good but it all takes time.

“Infrastructure is a big priority of our board. A lot of these projects, you aren’t going to see completed in the first week of school. We are looking at what we can do and it’s not always easily visible. We are looking at each site to see what we can do.”

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Julia M. Dendinger began working at the VCNB in 2006. She covers Valencia County government, Belen Consolidated Schools and the village of Bosque Farms. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists Rio Grande chapter’s board of directors.