School building, new classrooms, and bus depots ahead for APS capital projects

Education

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – With in-person school fully resuming for Albuquerque Public Schools, the district is looking toward the future and a handful of high-dollar construction projects. The district is working on plans for at least four different capital projects totals nearly $87 million in costs.

District executives highlighted the projects during a Monday morning board meeting, showing several renderings of the proposed projects. On the horizon includes an expected replacement of an elementary school on Kirtland Air Force Base, a new classroom building at Jackson Middle School, and two new bus depots for both sides of the city.

As architects finalize plans, district leaders are keeping track of construction costs. The COVID-19 pandemic is continuing to cause disruptions in the pricing of raw construction materials.

“This is an estimate today,” said Karen Alarid, executive director of APS Capital Construction. “We’re not sure what it’s going to look like when we actually start construction, but costs are really starting to go up for construction materials right now.”

During Monday’s meeting, project officials presented renders of one of the major projects APS is expecting to tackle in the next few years, a complete rebuild of Sandia Base Elementary School. Part of the school date back to the 40’s era construction, as the school first opened in 1949.

APS is expecting to keep the school operational as it builds a new facility around the old one, then eventually tears it down. The estimated $45 million project also has added cost due to some of the required “anti-terrorism” features that are required by the Department of Defense because the school is on base property.

The Federal Government could pay for as much as 80% of the school rebuilding project’s total cost if APS is awarded a grant for the project. Sandia Elementary typically houses has more than 500 kids each school year. APS is also looking at a new two-floor, 12-classroom block for Jackson Middle School near Eubank and Indian School. That project is estimated to cost $15 million. Construction is expected to start in 2022.

Two other building projects for APS fall into the category of school district operations. A combined $25 million is expected to go toward two new bus depot facilities, one for each side of the city. On the westside off Fortuna near Unser and I-40, APS is planning to build a bus depot for about 200 vehicles on what is now undeveloped land.

Another massive bus facility is expected to go up on a vacated, developed property along Osuna across from Calvary Church. APS is looking to spend $18 million to remodel the old Wagner construction equipment facility. That facility is expected to become APS’ main bus operations center with room to park 300 buses. APS has expanded bussing operations over the last few years as several private businesses have quit operating due to chances in profitability, according to the district.

During Monday’s meeting, project staff showed several photos of interior spaces of the planned Osuna facility. With COVID-19 considerations in mind, a couple of APS Board members raised concerns about the plan.

“If this (bus driver-crew) went down, it would really cripple our entire system,” said APS Board Member Yolanda Montoya-Cordova. “We rely on transportation for so much, I just think we ought to take a look at and consider what we can do with an outdoor space.”

According to APS documents, the main bus depot on Osuna and the Jackson Middle School classroom projects are already funded. However, both the westside bus depot and the Sandia Base Elementary projects are contingent on federal funds and support from voters in the school district. That voter funding will be on the ballot this November when APS has another bond election.

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