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AIMS council approves budget allowing second campus

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Despite facing opposition, Albuquerque Institute for Mathematics and Science moved forward Thursday with plans to expand to the University of New Mexico West campus, as the charter school’s governing council voted to approve next year’s budget.

“In our never-ending quest, I have jokingly said that I think it would be easier to open up a brothel or a bar in Rio Rancho than a high-performing school,” Principal Katharina Sandoval-Snider told the council.

The council approved a $4.68 million budget for 2014-15. The state’s public school funding formula will provide $3.56 million, based on the school’s enrollment of 330 students this year. AIMS plans to serve 400 students next year, according to budget documents distributed at the meeting.

AIMS will send some of its most veteran teachers to UNM West, Sandoval-Snider said, with a total of 3.5 FTE teacher positions assigned to the Rio Rancho campus, as well as a counselor and receptionist.

The budget includes $818,486 for the possible purchase of a building, according to Jolene Jaramillo, business manager at AIMS.

AIMS has explored other options for its second year in Rio Rancho. The school has “entered into some exploratory discussions with HP,” which is located at City Center, near the UNM West campus, Sandoval-Snider said.

AIMS and UNM have a memorandum of understanding that says the school must maintain a physical presence with the university, but that condition is not exclusive. Some classes can and do occur off the UNM campus, she said.

At their March meetings, the UNM regents requested AIMS provide details about its expansion and future plans, for consideration at their May meetings. Sandoval-Snider has submitted those documents and is ready to appear again before the regents.

“I think they will be interested, and relieved to a degree, by the resolution that Rio Rancho (city council) passed (Wednesday) night,” she said.

If enrollment at UNM West required use of the entire building by 2015-16, AIMS would have to give up the two classrooms the college plans to lease to AIMS for $100,000 next year, she and Jaramillo said.

“I think this is kind of a prickly issue for them,” Sandoval-Snider said of the state Public Education Commission, which approves charter schools. “They are certainly in a new, uncharted territory.”

She provided documents at the meeting, showing that the PEC already approved an amendment for the school’s expansion.

The PEC is expected to take up the issue at its May 9 meeting in Santa Fe.

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