Keep LAPS Land for the Future of Our Students

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The Los Alamos School Board has been fostering the advancement of a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the Los Alamos County Council regarding their joint efforts to pursue the planning process for a housing development on Los Alamos Public School (LAPS) land adjacent to the Los Alamos Middle School (LAMS) on North Mesa; subsequently, the MOA agrees to the county expenditure of $475,000 to pursue the county’s financial analysis and planning for development on North Mesa.

Whereas, the sale of LAPS land in White Rock to the Los Alamos Housing Partnership Inc., for the 1999 Piñon Trails development only supplied a non-recurring and immaterial financial gain, with no protection against funding deficits from the state. Piñon Trails also provided little relief to LAPS staff at the time, and provides no current benefit to affordable housing.

Whereas, the school board has not provided any rationale or analysis which indicate a material financial or educational benefit to establishing a housing development or selling the land parcel on North Mesa. Furthermore, the school board and LAPS do not have qualified legal or financial consultants working to advise them in their interest, as are separate and apart from the county’s interest.

Whereas, state laws require that all teacher pay comes from the state; they do not allow local districts to pay teacher salaries or give them benefits like a housing subsidy. LAPS does not have legal counsel and has not provided legal rationale to the public to ensure that affordable housing would go to teachers or staff.

Whereas, the Los Alamos School Board has not publicly, autonomously, discussed the MOA and housing development, apart from joint county sessions, and the community would appreciate the opportunity to listen to the school board publicly discuss this matter without the county council and county concerns present.

Whereas the appearance of the MOA on the agenda is too simplified and fails to advertise the nature of the MOA. And whereas the school board and county officials have been a large percentage of the stakeholders present at the two prior public meetings held in February and October 2020, and many citizens in the community are still largely unaware of the extent or intentions of the possible 360 unit development to be pursued.

Whereas, the current Covid-19 pandemic has been and needs to remain the focus of the school board and school administration, and similarly covid-19 prevents complete public engagement.

Whereas, LAPS is currently using the land parcel in question; it is a misnomer to consider it “vacant” when the cross-country course is used regularly by the schools, and other athletic fields are not considered to be vacant. The current course has the required proximity to LAMS, parking, restrooms, and the current facilities provided by the current location, without relying on sidewalks or asking LAMS students to compete in a busy development.

Whereas, the only interest and obligation of the Los Alamos School Board is to the education of the present and future LAPS students. While recruiting and retaining staff is important, it is not the responsibility of LAPS to provide housing for the county at large.

Whereas, the land slated for possible development is the last remaining large parcel of land owned by Los Alamos Public Schools; once it is gone, LAPS will not have the opportunity to expand in order to meet the needs of the present and future students.

Whereas, the Los Alamos National Laboratory has been engaging in an intensive hiring strategy, with a resulting increase to the population of young families and LAPS students, creating schools that are currently at, over or near capacity. And whereas in the presentation, “The State of the Lab” provided by Laboratory director Thom Mason, at the November 10th, 2020 school board meeting, the intentions of the Los Alamos National Laboratory to continue intensive hiring for the next few years were announced, which will thereby continue to further increase the population of younger families with school aged children.

Whereas, since 2012, the composition of the Los Alamos population has significantly changed, notably with a continuously increasing percentage of young families with in-district students attending the schools. Therefore, the outdated 2012 sixth-grade academy consideration does not readily apply to the current needs of LAPS students. A sixth-grade hawk academy, reengineered to support the growing numbers, as well as LAMS expansion to adequately house the seventh and eighth grades should become the new priority of the school board, and will require the land parcel that is slated for development.

Whereas, and especially considering this is the last parcel of land the schools have for expansion, the North Mesa parcel represents an opportunity to meet the needs for the education of LAPS students, whether it be by expanding the middle school to create a sixth-grade academy, expanding the trades program, or other needs, which have not yet been identified. This land provides the opportunity to keep the Los Alamos Public Schools District as one of the top districts in the state of New Mexico.

Therefore, the undersigned respectfully propose that the school board table the MOA, and devote its time and attention to the current needs resulting from the pandemic, the expansion requirements for our schools, before space becomes a crisis, and how the district can best use this land, not as a one-time tradeoff for an immaterial financial gain, but to meet the needs of our students both present and future.

Furthermore, the undersigned respectfully propose that the school board table the MOA until the school board, under the advisement of their own counsel and consultants, can provide the public with rationale and confidence that any investigations for financial streams from the North Mesa land parcel will both be educationally worthwhile and/or financially material to the schools.

Furthermore, the undersigned respectfully request that the school board table the MOA, maintain control of the land, and does not sign the MOA, with the intention of allowing the county, and the county’s consultants to be the provider of plans that may be in conflict with the goals, and obligations of the schools.

If the school board continues to move forward on the MOA without addressing the listed concerns, then the undersigned consider this letter to remain valid while requesting that the school board ceases any and all progress on development or sale of this land until these issues are satisfactorily addressed and the community has an opportunity to consent to moving forward.

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