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Aug 18, 2017

Farmington Seeing Addition and Renovation to Historic, Well-Used School

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Opened when the Dodgers were still playing in Brooklyn and the number one TV show was I Love Lucy, the McCormick Elementary School defines durability.

“It really is a great old school,” remarks Eugene Schmidt, the superintendent of the Farmington Municipal School District.

“It has gone through a lot of changes through the years, but is still serving the needs of today’s students,” adds Schmidt.

Inaugurated in the fall of 1954, the school at 701 McCormick School Road, just over a mile to the southeast of downtown Farmington, was designed by famed Albuquerque architect Max Flatow, the creative visionary behind such structures as the towering 17-floor Bank of the West Building in downtown Albuquerque.

“The long building of concrete block construction now presents a glass façade to the visitor,” a reporter for the Albuquerque Journal in 1954enthused gazing upon the school’s all-purpose room, part of the original two eight-room wings making up McCormick.

The facility in what was then a patchwork neighborhood of small suburban houses opened its doors when Farmington’s population stood just north of 3,000 people. The original enrollment for the school was in the hundreds.

Now Farmington’s population is at the 43,000 mark, and the school’s most recent enrollment came in at around 10,800.

Not surprisingly, says Ted Lasiewicz, the school has had to respond to those numbers.

“We’ve had seven additions to the original building in the last 63 years,” says Lasiewicz, the director of operations for the Farmington district, “and those additions were all due to enrollment growth.”

District officials have been moving in the direction of renovating the McCormick school for several years now, and hoped to receive state money for the effort.

But those hopes were dealt a setback in the spring of 2015 after officials with the New Mexico Public School Facilities Authority paid the facility a visit and decided it was in better shape than they originally believed.

That appraisal meant the school would be removed from the authority’s project list for state funding.

In the months to follow, a local eight-member committee studied the Farmington District’s facility needs, ultimately deciding that McCormick was in need of renovation.

The District then turned to local voters who, in February of this year, overwhelmingly approved a $26 million bond measure for the renovation and expansion of McCormick, as well as a host of other repair projects with the district’s nineteen other schools.

“Rare is the town that sees an 85 percent school bond approval,” says Schmidt. “But Farmington is one.”

Of that amount over $7.6 million was targeted for the first phase McCormick work.

“They had the designs up and ready to go within days of the election,” says Schmidt, “and a ground-breaking took place several months after that.”

The work, notes Lasiewicz, “is not a replacement of a school, but rather an addition, plus a renovation of a significant part of the school.”

The project is now so far along, enthuses Schmidt, “that it may well come in a month early. We had been hoping to have everything done and ready by the Christmas break. But now it is looking like it may well be done in early December.”

Once that first phase work is complete, “then we will empty out the older part of the building, and start on phase two,” adds Schmidt.

Future work on the other existing Farmington district schools, says Lasiewicz, “will come as the bonds are sold and we receive additional funding.”

“At that point we will be looking at improvements in various aspects of the other schools relating to special systems such as HVAC improvements and replacement, roofing - that sort of thing,” Lasiewicz notes.

The additional work at the other schools will typify the Farmington district’s long-running and overall approach to basic facility maintenance.

“What we’ve been trying to do all along is to continue the life cycle of our schools through systems replacement,” explains Schmidt.

“In areas where we are not going to get a new building, we focus on making the existing building a healthy learning environment,” he continues.

“That means that while our district does have some buildings that are old, we still do everything we can to keep them functional,” adds Schmidt, “and that’s pretty much the only responsible thing a district our size can do.”

 

By Garry Boulard

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