RRPS breaks ground for preschool

School officials and others tossed dirt Wednesday morning at the new site of Shining Stars Preschool.
(Gary Herron/Rio Rancho Observer)

RIO RANCHO, N.M. — Right about the time the new Joe Harris Elementary is opening its doors, in August 2020, so too will the doors to the new $17 million Shining Stars Preschool swing open.

Ground was ceremoniously broken Wednesday morning by school officials and other local movers and shakers, including Rio Rancho Mayor Gregg Hull, who credited the district for its choice, affording a great panoramic view.

“When the bulldozers hit the ground, you know we’re serious,” Hull said, happy to see a second new school planned to open in 2020.

The current Shining Stars Preschool, near the intersection of Rockaway and Northern boulevards, occupies what was originally Ernest Stapleton Elementary, an Albuquerque Public Schools building that opened in 1990. At the same time Stapleton opened, APS opened its “sister” school, Susie Marmon Elementary, which was replaced about a decade ago.

Rio Rancho Public Schools became a district in 1994, absorbing the Stapleton campus, among others. In 2005, a “brick-and-mortar” replacement for the old APS Stapleton facility opened, also named Stapleton Elementary, and the all-metal original Stapleton campus became the home of Shining Stars Preschool, under the leadership of early childhood expert Suzanne Harper, who became its principal.

Harper was there through the 2013-14 school year. Kim Johns succeeded her and was on hand for the groundbreaking event Wednesday.

Happy to get a new campus in 15 months, Johns told the gathering — which included most of the school’s teachers, as SSP students are off on Wednesdays — “This is the most incredible staff I have ever worked with. It’s not the campus; it’s what we do within those four walls that makes a difference.”

Superintendent Sue Cleveland took a moment to thank the school district’s voters, who approved general obligation bonds, with some of those proceeds making a new Shining Stars Preschool a reality.

Not many preschools are built, Cleveland said, and, “I believe this will be the model for the state of New Mexico.”

Dekker Perich Sabatini designed the campus, while RRPS Facilities Executive Director Melanie Archibeque said will be “fast-tracked,” built in three phases and completely enclosed. Brycon is the general contractor.

The new campus site is near the intersection of Lionel Road and Montezuma Boulevard, about three-tenths of a mile west of Loma Colorado Boulevard. Montezuma is about three-tenths of a mile north of Loma Colorado’s intersection with Idalia Road.