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High hopes for building plan at Rio Grande High

FOR THE RECORD: Rio Grande High School’s freshman classroom building that is now under construction is part of the $26.3 million first phase of Albuquerque Public Schools’ five­phase plan for renovating the high school. The cost was incorrect in this story.

Construction is underway on a 92,000-square-foot classroom building that will house all of Rio Grande High School’s ninth-grade students.

The $17 million freshman academy building is Albuquerque Public Schools’ first phase in a $26.3 million, five-phase plan for renovating the high school.

Parents and community leaders are excited about the project and hope it will bolster the school’s reputation and improve student success.

“I’m hoping the perception of Rio Grande will change,” said Jessica Farrow, president of the school’s Parent Teacher Student Association. “Let’s face it: When you see Rio Grande in the news, you don’t see a lot of positive things. I’m hoping this will help our community show a more positive face.”

The ninth-grade academy building will feature 48 classrooms, three computer labs and space for teacher offices and student common areas.

In addition to the new building, the renovation plan also includes a new bus drop-off and pickup area, sports facilities and artificial turf for the football and baseball fields, APS Superintendent Luis Valentino said at a groundbreaking ceremony Monday.

“Every ninth-grader coming in will know that in that building, in that academy, there is a space just for them,” he said. “High school transitions are very difficult – if you remember – so having a space just for the ninth-graders will give them the opportunity to enhance what they learn.”

The school has separated ninth-graders from other grades for 13 years, but this will be the first time they have their own building.

Valentino said the new space will be used not only by Rio Grande students but also by the South Valley community.

“It provides opportunities for other folks, not just the students, to engage with the space,” he said. “The computers can be used after school, during evening programs and in the summer. (The building is) another community space that can be used by the folks of the South Valley.”

The building’s expected completion date is May 2016. Other phases of the plan are waiting for public votes on funding set for February 2016, APS spokesman Rigo Chavez said.

Valentino, Farrow, APS administration officials, school principal Amanda DeBell and state legislators attended the ceremony at the school.

State Sen. Michael Padilla, D-Albuquerque, said he was shocked by the progress of the building, which is already under construction.

“This school is part of the fabric of New Mexico. It’s part of the fabric of the South Valley,” he said.”The South Valley is rising, and we are taking these children as seriously as we take any child in this state.”