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APS celebrates West Mesa work

West Mesa High is getting an $18.8 million makeover. A groundbreaking ceremony was held Thursday morning to celebrate the project. Pictured is Skyler Plante, an ironworker with Local 495 helping a crane operator guide a beam into place. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

West Mesa High is getting an $18.8 million makeover. A groundbreaking ceremony was held Thursday morning to celebrate the project. Pictured is Skyler Plante, an ironworker with Local 495 helping a crane operator guide a beam into place. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Steel beams are rising into the sky at West Mesa High School – the beginnings of an $18.8 million project to replace an aging classroom building.

Albuquerque Public Schools officials held a groundbreaking ceremony Thursday morning to celebrate the upgrade, which is the first major construction at West Mesa in more than 40 years.

The plan includes three phases: the addition of a new 15-classroom building; demolition and rebuilding of the 52-classroom “M hall,” and remodeling of the central courtyard.

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“I am happy for these kids – they deserve it,” said APS Board of Education member Peggy Muller-Aragon, a 1976 graduate of the school. “I wish this had happened a lot sooner.”

Currently, students are using 61 portable classrooms on site. Safety issues have arisen, with kids running between the portables on the western side of the campus while buses pull into the nearby bus lane throughout the day.

M hall has minimal windows and aging infrastructure; the central courtyard’s uneven sidewalks are a tripping hazard.

Acting Superintendent Raquel Reedy said she is glad the work is beginning. She also thanked taxpayers, who funded the project in the 2013 bond election.

“When I see this building and the ironwork and the cranes, what it tells me is that the community truly cares about its children and they want nothing but the best,” she said. “And this is definitely the best.”

A new $70 million bond will come on the ballot in February, and principal Mark Garcia pushed voters for approval.

“It truly impacts our kids and our community and allows us to continue to educate our students with the best facilities possible,” he said.

The new West Mesa building, designed by Mahlman Studio, should be complete in January 2017.

Built in 1967, the school has an enrollment of 1,568 students.

Along with Muller-Aragon, APS board members Steven Michael Quezada and Lorenzo Garcia also are graduates.

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