Saturday, September 25, 2010
By Andrea Schoellkopf
Journal Staff Writer
Central New Mexico Community College instructor Clyde Ortiz remembers when the classrooms were filled with young children attending Pajarito Elementary.
"It brought back so many memories," said Ortiz, who attended Pajarito 40 years ago and returned from California to teach at the same building three years ago for CNM. "I still walk through there and see this is where the cafeteria used to be, where the principal's office used to be."
Cottonwoods that once shaded the elementary playground are still behind the campus, including one that Ortiz says might hold a carving of a heart he made when he was young.
Today, the CNM campus will celebrate its 15-year anniversary from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The event will feature campus tours, an open house with activities in many rooms, a reunion for Pajarito Elementary School alumni and former and current teachers and staff, refreshments, a hot rod car show and music.
Albuquerque Public Schools closed Pajarito in 1992 — moving to a new campus on Don Felipe SW — after problems with the septic system caused a health hazard for students, including a sewage-contaminated playground.
Leasing for $1 a year with an option to buy for $425,000, the then-named Albuquerque Technical Vocational Institute opened there in 1995 to 400 students, placating South Valley community members wanting higher education in the area.
When the school sat vacant for two years, Ortiz said neighbors feared it would be torn down and he was thrilled when TVI came in.
"I was hoping it would take off," he said. "Sure enough, it did. The South Valley needed something like that."
Since then, the campus at 5816 Isleta has gone through four construction phases, including the $4.3 million bio-technologies laboratory and new cosmetology building in 2003.
It now serves more than 1,230 students and is home to programs such as veterinary technician, biotechnology, cosmetology, diagnostic medical sonography, clinical lab assistant, phlebotomy, nursing assistant and medical lab technician.
Today's celebration will also include a ceremony recognizing more than 40 people who were instrumental in the opening of the campus, as well as others who have a history there.
Among the returning alumni is Kenneth Williams, who graduated from eighth grade in 1938, when Pajarito was a four-room school house with four grades in each room, said interim director Annette Chavez y DeLaCruz.
Tours will include nail art and $3 haircuts by the cosmetology department and a presentation by the veterinary technology program.
The school's library opened in spring and is open to the public. Also, the school's computer lab is available for public use with the purchase of a $5 guest access card.
Many of the old murals from the elementary are still up, and panels from a dropped ceiling will be removed temporarily to reveal the school's mascots, said Chavez y DeLaCruz.