Los Lunas

Los Lunas has begun the process of redistricting its school board election district boundaries to balance the population in each.

“Los Lunas has seen unpredecented growth in the last 10 years. Some districts lost population, some gained,” said Francisco Apodaco of Productive Data Solutions Inc., who was hired to look at population figures and draw new district lines to balance the number of people.

Redistricting occurs every 10 years, after the federal census. After the lines are redrawn, school board members may have fewer or more constituents, but children will continue to attend the same schools.

The ideal district would have 8,172 people, Apodaca said.

Some of the five Los Lunas school voter districts have more, others fewer, than the ideal figure, varying between 5,364 and 13, 611.

Apodaca is trying to balance the districts to equalize the population.

He is making the changes with voting precincts intact so there is less voter confusion, he said.

He drew the boundaries to make the districts compact and contiguous, meeting federal criteria and so that they split along streets or natural boundaries.

And, he said, “I tried to combine communities of interest,” considering factors such as ethnicity, historic communities, fast-growing areas, subdivisions, and people of “like political mind” — or like interests, he explained.

For example, in District 1, Isleta Pueblo lands are “a community of interest” and ethnicity and an area of sovereignty.

Most residents will be in one district, but that is not possible yet because the population is small and often is near other population centers outside of the pueblo, he said.

“In some areas (of the county), there is not a lot of population, but someone has to represent the lizards,” Apodaca said.

The precinct splits have “nothing to do with school boundaries but are based on political boundaries,” he said.

Redistricting was ordered by the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled on a case in North Carolina in which a district was created “to try to create a minority-majority area with a district that looked like a crocodile. It broke up a traditional area and avoided a majority area for a minority area. There was a challenge by an incumbent. The Supreme Court ruled in his (the incumbent’s) favor.”

“They had gone out of their way to create a minority area by diluting the majority area strength. You can’t dilute anybody’s strength, whether minority or majority,” Apodaca explained later.

Apodaca presented the school board members with four options for ways to redraw district lines. There will be another public meeting on May 14 at 6 p.m., and then the board members will vote at the end of May on which map they prefer, Apodaca said.

Maps are available at the school board central office, at Wells Fargo Bank and at elementary schools, he said.

Redistricting is based on the concept of one-person, one-vote. If the largest district is 10,000 people and the smallest is 100, you don’t have equal representation, he said later.

In other business, the school board awarded a contract to FAMCO Inc. of Albuquerque to build an administration building addition and new classroom wing at Los Lunas Middle School.

The plan includes a media center. The architectural firm of John Friedman prepared plans and specifications.

“This will be a wonderful facility for students to learn in,” said Priscilla Fernández, assistant superintendent for maintenance and operations, after the meeting.

The building should be completed by April of next year, she said.

“We’ll work around the kids. Safety is No. 1,” Fernández said.

The board also approved a policy on visitors to the school, including establishing procedures for parents or guardians of students with special needs to facilitate the visitation process.

Board members agreed that “parents who need to be there for daily or frequent basis will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis” and may get a yearly pass, said Board Member Nancy Seemann.

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Katherine Saltzstein