Belen Schools receives first bond sale installment

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The Belen Consolidated Schools is one step closer to getting the indoor aquatic center it has desired for years.

Earlier this month, the district received the first installment from the nearly $24 million in bond sales voters approved in February 2011.

During the last Belen Board of Education meeting, George Perea, the district’s business and finance director, read a letter confirming that more than $13 million in funds would be credited to the district’s capital projects account.

The funds became available after school and city officials traveled to Texas last month to present their case for lowered interest rates to one of the nation’s leading credit rating agencies.

Perea said the remaining $10 million in bonds will go on sale once the district pays off some of its previous bond obligations.

“I’m grateful the bonds have been sold and we are getting the money,” Perea said. “As a district, it is important to show the voters that we are building what they voted for.”

Besides the aquatic center, the district will use this first round of money to build a new Family School building and conduct renovations on Gil Sanchez Elementary School.

In other business, the board:

• Unanimously approved a proposed agreement with the city of Belen to close Fourth Street and Baca from 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Barriers will be placed at the south corner of Fourth Street and Baca and in the middle of Fourth Street, just north of the houses, during those hours.

School and city officials said closing the street will protect students traveling to and from Belen Middle School.

Belen’s city council approved the measure last week.

• Unanimously approved the $10,000 travel budget to send five district employees on an out-of-state trip in October.

Board of Education President Sam Chavez supported the trip, but said he would like those attending to prepare a presentation detailing how the program will help improve student achievement.

“I really need to start questioning are specific programs being successful,” Chavez said. “Are we spending money we don’t have, he asked, “for programs that have a lot of fluff and niceties? But what is the program actually contributing to the success in the classroom?”

• Approved 4 to 1 a memorandum of understanding between New Mexico Health Alliance and Belen Schools for the Youth Health Literacy Project.

Project organizers plan to use social media to alleviate health disparities among adolescents by promoting health messages aimed at the area’s youth.

However, Chavez expressed concern over the type of messages the program will deliver.

“Specifically, I want to ensure that we are not going to be disseminating messages about birth control and we are not going to get into the practice of providing condoms at the school,” he said. “We are not going to be encouraging our children for underage sex or anything of that sort.”

Superintendent Ron Marquez assured the board that language could be added to the memorandum that would restrict the type of messages delivered.

Board member Larry Lindberg voted against the measure, but did not explain his vote.

• Unanimously approved a nearly $121,000 budget adjustment for a program that promotes healthy eating among elementary school students by introducing them to a wide array of fruits and vegetables.