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APS gets grant to rebuild school by Kirtland

Ashley Willis, 10, works on a math problem in Cecilia Torres’ fifth-grade classroom at Wherry Elementary School on Monday. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

Ashley Willis, 10, works on a math problem in Cecilia Torres’ fifth-grade classroom at Wherry Elementary School on Monday. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Residing in Uncle Sam’s backyard has its perks, as Wherry Elementary School discovered Monday.

Albuquerque Public Schools is slated to receive a $16.25 million grant from the Department of Defense to rebuild Wherry, located next to Kirtland Air Force Base.

The U.S. Department of Defense’s Office of Economic Adjustment, through the grant, will reimburse APS for rebuilding the elementary school at Gibson and Pennsylvania, which was built in 1952.

The grant required APS to provide matching money, and the district spent about $5 million, said Kizito Wijenje, APS capital master plan director.

APS has already installed water, sewer and other utilities and completed other site work for the new school, including the construction of eight classrooms, Wijenje said.

Students rush to line up for school buses at the end of the day Monday at Wherry Elementary School. Albuquerque Public Schools learned Monday it will get a $16.25 million grant to help rebuild the school. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

Students rush to line up for school buses at the end of the day Monday at Wherry Elementary School. Albuquerque Public Schools learned Monday it will get a $16.25 million grant to help rebuild the school. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

He said the school, which will have about 30 classrooms, could be completed by 2016.

The Office of Economic Adjustment provides grant money to repair or rebuild schools built on military bases.

In the case of Wherry, however, the circumstances were a little unusual because the school is not on the base. It is, though, located next door on Department of Defense property, according to Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M., who helped get the grant for Wherry.

“It’s a bit of a hybrid,” Lujan Grisham said, noting that the Air Force base and APS worked together to get the money.

APS was first notified Wherry Elementary was eligible for the grant several years ago, and learned Monday that it had been awarded the money.

Wherry was listed as the 11th most in need of repairs in a Department of Defense study ranking 156 schools on U.S. military bases, according to a 2011 news release.

Most of the families at Kirtland don’t send their children to Wherry Elementary, base officials said, but rather Sandia Base Elementary, which is located inside the base.

Still, Col. Tom D. Miller, Kirtland’s 377th Air Base Wing and Installation commander, said the grant is good news.

“Kirtland is pleased Wherry Elementary School is the recipient of the Department of Defense grant, which benefits the educational experience of base and local area neighborhood children attending the school,” the colonel said in a statement.

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