RIO RANCHO, N.M. (KRQE) – A state-of-the-art preschool with a $20 million price tag is in the works in one New Mexico school district.
District officials want it to be the coolest preschool in the state. The campus for 3 and 4-year-olds has a lot of cool features, including a lab specifically for science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics.
Educators in Rio Rancho are hoping to change the way kids learn. “If there is a gap in learning that we can help these students, give them additional experiences, and then they can be prepared,” says Chief Academic Officer Carl Leppelmen.
They’re starting with the district’s youngest students and a brand new Shining Stars Preschool.
“I think that you can really tell when they start kindergarten which ones have gone to preschool and which ones haven’t. They need as much learning as they can get,” says Tina Jaramillo.
Last month, the district broke ground on a new building for Shining Stars, the only public preschool in the district. It will replace the aging building RRPS has been using, which is an old elementary school.
“It was not really designed to be a preschool,” Leppelmen says.
The new campus will be divided into four sections and feature fine and gross motor skills areas, a trike track, a sensory garden, and a STEAM lab for math, engineering, and science.
“It’s one of a kind I would say in the southwest,” Leppelmen says.
District leaders say they hope to create an environment that better serves kids cognitive social and emotional needs.
“Many students have disabilities and some students are actually behind, so they haven’t had these experiences. So, you certainly want in the pre-k students to have those experiences before kindergarten,” Leppelmen says.
While it’s a costly building, “How do you put a dollar figure on a student who is successful in life?” Leppelmen says.
Parents say it’s exactly what the district needs. “What you are doing for these preschoolers, it advances them in their learning,” says Lisa Cooner.
The building is set to open in August 2020 It can hold up to 625 students, but the way it’s designed allows them to add on in the future.
The money for the preschool was approved by voters in a bond election in 2016.