SODA plans to build new school in LL

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The School of Dreams Academy plans to move into a new school in the fall of 2015.

It will be built in three phases on Sundance Street, across from Sundance Elementary School and west of St. Matthew's Episcopal Church. Construction is planned to begin in December or January.

"This is probably the most exciting thing that I've ever been involved in," said Mike Ogas, co-founder and SODA principal.

"I'm really passionate about this one. This isn't a job for us, this is something that we want to make work, something that we really want to have as a bright spot for the community."

The School of Dreams Education Foundation is buying about 17 acres in the Huning Ranch subdivision from Los Lunas developer Stan Strickland for about $900,000.

This particular tract of land is zoned for medium- to high-density residential, and so an application for conditional use was presented to the Los Lunas Planning and Zoning Commission by Ogas and local real estate broker Joe Gonzales.

The commissioners approved the conditional use permit May 15.

There are three phases for building the campus, starting with an arts and science complex, two separate structures of classrooms, an administration building and a 30,000-square-foot cafeteria.

A rudimentary layout of a 110- by 60-yard utility track is also in the plans for the first phase of building.

Phase 1 of the campus would house everything they have right now, and as many as 425 students. Current enrollment is about 320 students.

"Even though we might grow a little bit, we always want to make it a parent-friendly and small-school atmosphere," Ogas said.

The SODA Education Foundation is working with private bond financiers, Dougherty & Company LLC out of Minneapolis, Minn., for the estimated $5.5 to $7 million phase of the project.

Phase 2 includes a performing arts amphitheater/conference hall.

Phase 3 calls for building a 9,000-square-foot gym and, if school officials decide, an elementary school as well.

"If the elementary (school) happens, it probably won't happen for at least a full school year, maybe even two," Ogas said.

SODA officials are negotiating with the state to provide school bus transportation, but it might not be available by next fall.

"We're also going to make sure that our (schedule) times are staggered with Sundance, so we're not all starting at the same times," Ogas said.

"They won't need to worry … we already are staggered right now."

Currently, special soil tests and building designs are being evaluated because of lawsuits and complaints about homes cracking and sinking in the Huning Ranch subdivisions.

"We're aware of the issues that have happened in the area, and we have talked to the soils people about that," said Doug Hensley, vice president of Accelerated Consolidated Construction.

"We're going to make sure the design is correct and that the water is kept away from buildings, away from footings and channeled away, so that won't be an issue moving forward.

"We've been learning from lessons that have happened down the road."

"We want to make sure that they get the best school they can get with no problems in terms of any kind of settling, whatsoever," said Planning and Zoning Commissioner Terri Ulibarri.

"Our (meeting) minutes show that we're adamant, or I am adamant, about addressing that need so that they can have a school that will be there for 50 to 100 years and not have any problems."

The Los Lunas land developer said soil tests for the plot were first taken when residential homes were planned.

Test holes were dug 100 feet deep and sonar testing was used, he said.

"They found dry, silty material down to 100 feet," he said. "It's the kind of material that, if it becomes saturated, it collapses."

Making sure the soil isn't saturated and keeping irrigation away from the foundations will help solve that problem, Strickland said.

Hensley said plans call for the charter's school buildings to meet the required codes to withstand earthquakes.


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