Renovation of LLHS

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Amid the clamor of large equipment and the sounds of nearly 100 tradesmen at work, the new two-story Los Lunas High School is rising like a phoenix.

Deborah Fox-News-Bulletin photo: Construction of the new Los Lunas High School is running smoothly and on time. The two-story building is expected to be completed in November. The northeast corner will house the food preparation kitchen and receiving building.

Phase I is nearing completion, which is slated for November, and the school will move-in after winter break next school year, said Antonio Sedillo, district supervisor of construction management.

“We’re usually at the last minute, like Sundance. We moved in over Christmas and it was a mad, mad rush,” Sedillo said. “This one, the schedule actually worked out so we have a month to let the contractors close-out.”

There are a lot of “punch list” items to be evaluated before the actual close-out can be finalized.

“When we move in, it will be like walking into a new house, instead of walking into a facility that still needs a little work,” he said.

Phase I is essentially the construction of four educational academies, including the Freshman Academy, the Flex Academy, which houses the nursing program, and Project Lead the Way, the Fame Academy, and part of the Future Academy, as well as the library, reading room, kitchen, cafeteria, commons area and classrooms.

Construction is an intricate web of steel beams forming the overall structure, the rooms and hallways, and is closely followed by dry wall installation and painting. Some brick and mortar work is completed as well.

Workers in steel hats with heavy tool belts are up on the scaffolding, while backhoes and boom lifts are busy at the ground level. The wind blows eddies of sand.

The construction area is all fenced off, and students bustle to classes through safety zone walkways.

“We had a 250 foot crane out here,” Sedillo said. “The weather this fall — October, November was absolutely beautiful. They didn’t lose any time. They made up time just because the weather was so nice.”

The total project will expand the campus by about 150 square feet, and the completed school will be 289,000 square feet.

Phase II will begin after the students moves in to the new space, but some of Phase II infrastructure is already being built, including electrical and IT wiring, fire alarms and security systems, as well as storm drains,

Sedillo said they also hope to have the vocational-technology area completed in Phase I.

The budget is about $32 million for this phase, and $30 million for Phase II. Eighty percent will be paid by the state Public School Capital Outlay Council, said Andy Garcia, director of maintenance and construction.

“Of that $62 million, the district will end up paying 20 percent of that, plus tax,” Garcia said.

That 20 percent comes out to about $13 million out of the district’s pocket over the period of construction.

The PSCOC ranks every public school by the age of its buildings, the condition of the roof, and other factors, and prioritizes funding of repairs or construction according to the school’s ranking.

The Public Schools Facility Authority, managed by the PSCOC, helps school districts manage construction projects, and follow all guidelines put forth by the state’s adequacy standards.

Back in 2009, the district formed a committee consisting of curriculum staff, teachers, administrators, school board members, community members and other district staff to identify the spaces everybody wanted and what educational requirements the high school needed to have, Sedillo said.

“There’s so many hands that contribute to this project,” he said. “It truly is a district-wide project.”

The committee visited some of the new Albuquerque schools, including Cleveland and Volcano Vista, to see how they were laid out, how they functioned as a school, if there were any security or maintenance issues, Garcia added.

“Everything in the education specifications had to coincide with the adequacy standards,” Sedillo said. “They’re (PSFA) like our partners on this. The regional manager, Rocky Kearney, he’s a construction manager extraordinaire. He helps us manage our project with his experience in different realms and education.”

The district also has to show that it is utilizing all of the building space for a designated amount of time each day, and that there aren’t any classrooms left empty, he said.

There has been years of construction on the school site prior to the high school in 1967, so some utility surprises have been encountered, but overall, the project is running smoothly.

The second phase is a little bit larger than the first phase, he said.

“It’s in design right now,” Garcia added. “I think the design will be complete in April or May.”

A request for proposal will be put out at that time, and Phase II will be up for bid.

“We want to bid that second phase (as soon as possible), so we can just continue right where we left off,” Sedillo said.

Any green growing landscaping will have to be paid by the district, but the state will cover any rock or bark-type landscaping.

“It’s going to be a beautiful school,” Garcia said.


-- Email the author at dfox@news-bulletin.com.