What do staff and parents think about APS' plan to repurpose schools? - Albuquerque Journal

What do staff and parents think about APS’ plan to repurpose schools?

Albuquerque Public Schools recently presented recommendations to consolidate several schools, scattering their students throughout their communities.

The plan calls for repurposing several schools, transforming most of them into early childhood learning centers or magnet schools.

District Superintendent Scott Elder said that while consolidating schools is always tough, this plan was a long time coming for APS – in part due to student enrollment decline – and one that, in the long run, would provide more options and opportunities to students across the city.

But what do school communities think about it?

“I’m going to feel a little bit sad because this is a great school,” said Hidalia Carrillo, a La Luz Elementary School first grader. “I never want to leave La Luz.”

La Luz’s campus, just off Griegos and Second, is among those that district officials have suggested be turned into an early childhood center and in 2025 have its students dispersed to other schools.

Even though Hidalia and her family moved across the city last year, her mother, Clarissa, actually carts her three children 20 minutes to the school just because they love it so much.

“I think it should just stay a school,” Clarissa Carrillo said. “There’s a lot of space for early childhood centers.”

While some parents didn’t necessarily mind the idea of turning schools into early childhood centers, most still felt the same way as the Carrillos, saying they’d rather have their school stay as is.

Some pointed out the transportation issues that could arise – like MaryJane Lopez, whose granddaughter is in the fourth grade at Kirtland Elementary School, near Gibson and Carlisle. APS is proposing to swap Kirtland’s campus with land on a housing development, send students to nearby Lowell and Whittier elementary schools, and build an early childhood center on the new land.

“Honestly, I think it’d be a great loss,” Lopez said. “A lot of people don’t have cars … and it’s hard for them to get to Lowell, to get to Whittier.”

Some parents said they wanted their schools to stay because they, their children and their parents had all gone to those neighborhood schools. Others said they didn’t want to uproot their children, who had gone to their schools for years.

“That’s kind of, like, taking his home from him,” said Arturo Lucero, whose son is in the second grade at Kirtland. “That’s not fair to him, or the parents.”

Kirtland Principal Allison Gabaldon stressed that the district still has a lengthy process to go through to put the plans discussed Monday in motion.

Five-year-old Alex Bonilla, a Kirtland Elementary kindergartner, runs to his mother’s SUV after class is dismissed. Several student populations, including Kirtland’s, would move under Albuquerque Public Schools’ right-sizing recommendations. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

She’s been reassuring families that the school is still up and running, and said APS will be gathering input from the school community “before any school is repurposed.”

In addition to going before communities for input, next steps for the proposals include working out boundary lines and funding with the superintendent and the district cabinet made up of higher officials. Any plans that are made are contingent on approval by the APS school board.

“We are open for business,” Gabaldon said. “We will continue to serve our students, families and the Kirtland community and do whatever it takes to make Kirtland great.”

For her part, Albuquerque Teachers Federation President Ellen Bernstein felt the plan was thoughtful in that the district wasn’t planning on simply closing schools – instead turning them into something else that would serve their communities. The district also has assured teachers and other employees that they shouldn’t “expect to lose their jobs” because of the right-sizing, and it doesn’t anticipate any layoffs.

Still, that doesn’t make it any easier for teachers to move on.

Travis McKenzie, a social studies and gardening teacher at Polk Middle School, in the South Valley, said the district’s plans to potentially repurpose his school – where he’s worked for about three years – felt “blindsiding” for him and his colleagues, since they only found out about the plans the day the plans were presented to the board.

“I’ve put blood, sweat and tears into building and transforming our campus, and so to hear so rashly that we might have to move obviously was a little disheartening,” he said. “Receiving a letter (the) day of the board meeting, and then having to deal with all that, and right at the beginning of the new year, too? … We were all kind of shocked and just taken aback.”

Will you be affected by APS’ plan? Reach out to Journal education reporter Esteban Candelaria with your thoughts, questions or story ideas. Esteban can be reached at ecandelaria@abqjournal.com or at 505-823-3842.


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