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New Mexico's Laguna Elementary School receives $26.2 million for new school construction

Laguna Elementary School is the first school to be awarded under the BIA Replacement School List. They are getting $26.2 million for a new school construction.

The U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke announced Wednesday that the Laguna Elementary School in New Laguna, New Mexico, will receive $26.2 million for the construction of a new school.

“As Secretary of the Interior, I am responsible for the education of 48,000 native children in the Bureau of Indian Education school system​, and that is an honor and responsibility I take very seriously​,” Zinke said in the news release. “I applaud the Laguna Department Of Education’s commitment to providing a first class education to its students​ and for developing a successful plan​. An investment in our youth is an investment in our future​. I am hopeful that the proposal President Trump and I put forward to rebuild Indian schools is passed by Congress.”

“The Pueblo of Laguna is realizing a dream come true with the award to replace the previously condemned Laguna Elementary School,” said Laguna Pueblo Governor Virgil Siow in the release. “Our Pueblo Administration and Council has worked for many years to obtain funding for a modern, state of the art school to replace the current school. Finally, our children will learn in a safe and modern environment. This school will benefit future generations to come. We are very grateful to the Creator for this blessing and the opportunity for our community.”

The school’s superintendent Patricia Sandoval, Pueblo of Laguna, told Indian Country Today that the students deserved to have a new school and were excited about the changes to come.

“I think this school was probably state-of-the-art back in the 60’s as one of the first BIE-operated schools, but that is not the case any longer. We are delighted we will be able to get a new school. This has been a long time coming. I am fortunate to be the superintendent when this is taking place, but a lot of people did a lot of work and fought to get this done. I am extremely grateful for that,” she said.

“The kids are also excited about the groundbreaking ceremony coming up on the 24th. People need to come and see these kids faces and how happy and excited they are.”

The Laguna Elementary School is holding a groundbreaking ceremony on May 24th.

The Laguna Elementary School is holding a groundbreaking ceremony on May 24th.

The Laguna Elementary school’s principal Holly Gurule told Indian Country Today she was also glad for the upcoming changes.

“We are all very excited about this opportunity for a new school and we appreciate our community and our superintendents efforts to create such an opportunity for us. This school is very old and a new building will reflect the structure of our community, and allow us to incorporate culture into the classroom while also meeting our growing enrollment.”

The Laguna Elementary School replacement project will support the construction for an education facility serving approximately 220 students in grades ranging from kindergarten to fifth. The school is slated to be built on a 48,200 square foot campus and includes a Cultural Arts classroom, an additional computer lab, permanent stage space and increased allotments for Special Education therapy and resource classrooms. The school will be designed for sustainability and is expected to achieve the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Silver certification status.

In 2016, through the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) replacement school construction process, Indian Affairs selected 10 schools for replacement. Laguna Elementary School was the first 2016 NCLB School to complete the planning phase. The Pueblo of Laguna has elected to manage the project using a design-build contract for their new school utilizing an amendment to their existing education grant.

For more information on the The Laguna Elementary School groundbreaking ceremony on May 24th. Visit their Facebook event page.

Follow Indian Country Today’s associate editor and senior correspondent, Vincent Schilling (Akwesasne Mohawk) on TwitterFollow @VinceSchilling