APS plans upgrades for historic school properties

Albuquerque Public Schools is working to keep some of its older, historic buildings in shape. 

While the district has built a lot of new school buildings in recent years, APS also has some of the oldest, finest buildings in the city. Some APS school buildings are nearly 100 years old and still operational. 

While it’s not an easy task, APS says with some work, many of their historic schools still have a lot of life left in them. 

Several of APS’ historic schools are in the South Broadway and East Downtown neighborhoods of the city, just outside of downtown. 

Eugene Field Elementary on Edith near Coal opened in 1927. Today, the school still hosts hundreds of elementary students. 

“This is a school you don’t want to demolish, you know, it’s solid,” said Kizito Wijenje, speaking of Eugene Field Elementary. 

Wijenje leads APS’ construction planning effort through its “Capital Master Plan Program.” 

“You have to keep it up, you have to upgrade it and you have to make sure you look after it,” said Wijenje, speaking of historic school properties. 

It’s no accident that 91-year old schools like Eugene Field are still solid. APS has spent considerable time and effort to make sure the schools are still viable. 

There’s still millions of dollars in work left complete in APS’ historic schools, though. 

“Almost all the guts have to be upgraded and refurbished and that’s what we’re going to try and do,” said Wijenje. 

At Eugene Field, the school’s master plan outlines around $9.4 million of work that needs to be done over the next five or more years. 

Some of that work includes a new heating and cooling system, a new roof, ADA improvements and classroom upgrades and expansions. 

“We’ve got to pick and choose what we need to do,” said Wijenje, as much of the work remains “unfunded” according to the district. 

Wijenje says one of the trickiest parts of working with old school buildings is working to modernize buildings from different eras. 

“They have to be safe, they also have to be heated and cooled adequately and they also have to have good air and sound quality,” said Wijenje. “You didn’t have fiber optics or computers in those days, and that’s the center piece of what we do right now.” 

Lew Wallace Elementary downtown near Lomas and Sixth Street is another historic school APS still uses. It opened in 1934 and also faces around $9 million of work. 

Another historic property near South Broadway, the Lincoln Middle School site is also facing work. The 1922 building needs about $31-million of upgrades according to APS’s capital master plan. 

While they’re an investment, APS says its historic properties are worth the cost because they’ve lasted so long. 

“Buildings that were built by hand in the ’30s and the ’40s were really solid,” said Wijenje. 

In all, APS has three buildings it still uses that were built before 1930. Another five facilities, including Milne Stadium, were built in the ’30s with funding from “The New Deal.” 

The oldest school still in APS control is RFK Charter School on Blake Road in the South Valley. That school opened in 1919.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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