PERALTA — There has been a new development and some change in trajectory in the plan to rebuild Peralta Elementary.

“We’re excited for this project; it’s been a long time coming,” said Tiffany McMinn, Los Lunas School’s construction supervisor.

McMinn said a construction committee was formed to help guide the process. It is made up of 10 members, which include LLS administrative staff, the principal of Peralta Elementary, teachers and one parent.

“We’ve been meeting with all our different departments to get an idea of what this campus needs,” she said. “It’s a huge collaborative effort amongst the district and all different departments that make up an elementary school. Everyone has had a chance to come together and collaboratively use all our expertise to help design this school.”

McMinn said now that they’ve collaborated and finished up those meetings, they are now excited to get to the fun part of designing the interior colors and what that material will look like to start getting a better visual picture of the campus.

Dekker Perich Sabatini, a firm based in Albuquerque, is the architect. McMinn said the campus will be completely brand new and the new school will be a partial two-story building. The decision to do a complete rebuild versus a remodel, McMinn said, was based on a rebuild being the most cost-effective route.

“One of the things we look at to see if a building is suitable for a remodel is the infrastructure in place, like the age of plumbing and electrical system for example and what it would cost to replace those,” McMinn said. “With Peralta Elementary, we have multiple buildings on site and some are fairly older buildings, so it’s more cost prohibitive to try and repair certain parts rather than rebuilding it all.

McMinn said a complete rebuild would also allow them to remove all the portables from the site to create a more cohesive campus. Another factor is the incorporation of the district’s first Pre-K center, which LLS was awarded funding from the Public School Capital Outlay Council to create.

“With that comes different requirements and one of those is that each classroom needs to be 1,000 square feet,” McMinn said. “We currently do not have any classrooms on campus that meet that requirement so looking at all these different factors, it was the best option for us to rebuild which was also at the recommendation of the Public School Facilities Authority because (the Pre-K center) is funded by them.”

McMinn said the approximate cost to rebuild the school is around $30 million, but the final price will vary based on the contractor.

Front entrance conceptual drawing courtesy of Dekker Perich Sabatini

“Pre-K through kindergarten will be one story, that’s one wing. The other wing will be two stories with first through third grade downstairs and fourth through sixth grade on the upper level,” said McMinn. “We will have various administrative, special education, IT, innovation, computer and music rooms throughout those wings.”

During construction, the plan was initially to move students and staff into portables by Century High School, but McMinn said the students would instead remain on the Peralta Elementary campus during construction.

“Part of the strategic reason to build the school this way is for site security and to create a way we can have an active campus during construction to eliminate the need to move everybody and renovate the Blue School, AKA the portables, because they are aged and have kind of outlived their life,” McMinn said. “So we would spend a lot of money renovating those when we can be putting that money into the new facility, which will be their permanent home.”

McMinn said they will accomplish this by reorganizing the school for the upcoming school year to place students in classrooms that will remain temporarily on campus.

“There’s multiple buildings on that site, so we’re able to adjust the way we utilize space to accommodate for every classroom,” McMinn said.

Dr. Deborah Elder, interim superintendent and chief academic officer of curriculum, assessment and innovation for LLS, said this is especially attainable because there is extra space on campus due to low enrollment.

“We’ll be constructing the new building in its entirety so it will be one building that will be constructed all together,” McMinn said. “Once that building is done, we will move the kids into the new building and demolish remaining buildings on campus to complete the site development like additional parking spaces, fire lanes, playground areas, bus loops, landscaping and things like that while the kids are in the new building.”

Playground conceptual drawing courtesy of Dekker Perich Sabatini

McMinn said construction will last around 15-18 months, and will happen in phases, the first of which they aim to begin this summer as initial pre-construction work.

“We’ll start seeing things move around a little bit in July, hopefully. Then come January 2024 is when we would really be hitting the ground running on erecting the new building,” said McMinn.

Elder said they will likely start with the early childhood wing — a separate structure from anything that’s currently there.

“They would continue under normal routine and operations while that gets started, then they’ll move around as needed once the other phases start to kick in,

“I’ve undergone school construction as a principal, so I will tell you it’s a very tightly orchestrated process. There is a lot of detailed planning that goes into it, and it’s always about keeping kids safe while construction is happening,” Elder said.

With regard to noise disruption, Elder said, generally speaking, the way to go about that is to schedule the noisier activity outside of school hours or during recess and lunch time. However, that level of planning has not occurred yet.

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Felina Martinez was born and raised in Valencia County. She graduated from the University of New Mexico in 2021. During her time at UNM, she studied interdisciplinary film, digital media and journalism. She covers the village of Los Lunas, Los Lunas Schools, the School of Dreams Academy and the town of Peralta.