By Marty Mayfield
The Raton School Board met in a special session Monday night to discuss taking ownership of the Highlands University building in downtown Raton.
John Davidson told the board this has to be a collaborative effort or it won’t work. At issue is the Raton Schools taking ownership of the Highlands building which is deemed to be the more economical and practical since the school system can go after grants that the county or city cannot.
While the county has declined the ownership they have indicated they would support its use as a higher education facility. Shawn Learch CEO at Miners’ Hospital also offered their support as has the city of Raton according to City Manager Scott Berry. Beaver Segotta however told the 60 plus crowd at Raton High School that the only way he could vote for this is if the other entities that are offering their support also provide some of the funding to operate and maintain the building. Davidson told the board that it was his vision that this facility would be self sufficient and was working with Trinidad State Junior College to bring classes to Raton. He added there are grants for higher education out there that could make this a viable opportunity.
The board voted to move forward with the process provided that the other entities who have indicated their support will put it in writing and make the effort to help with the facility.
After the special board meeting a public forum on the school consolidation was held where some 70 plus faculty, staff and residents heard more about the school consolidation issue. Only two of the board members were allowed to stick around for the forum as not to violate the open meetings act. Dr. Terhune spoke to the crowd and took questions and heard concerns about the process the school is undertaking.
The general consensus is that many people are against the consolidation in any form and if it must be many concerns were brought up about which school to close and how to do it. One comment was “we are rushing into this, we need more time to study it and make the right choice for the school system and our kids.” Dr. Terhune spoke to the time line and indicated that he needed as much time as possible so that the work needed to consolidate could be done, teachers could be assigned and staff could be put in place before school starts in August 2015.
Most of those present agreed that Columbian School had more issues than Kearny despite Kearny’s structural issues. Of the options Principal Olga Neurauter presented some included some construction as well as using the basement at Columbian for a computer lab. Traffic issues were also a big concern that included congestion and problems with buses accessing the area around the school due to the tight streets and traffic congestion.
Principal Andy Ortiz presented the plan for Longfellow School which could see as many as 350 students. That figure however could not be firmed up until the first day of school when all the kindergarten students showed up. Ortiz however told the crowd how he would handle the student load with class sizes from 17 to 25 with at least five classes per grade.
KRTN spoke to Dr. Terhune after the meeting and he realizes this is an emotional issue that will only get more so as the time draws near for a board decision. He went over the timeline and other issues in our interview. There will be another school board meeting December 1 at 6:00 p.m. in the media center at Raton High to hear more comments from the public. Dr. Terhune is hoping the board can make a decision at the December 8 meeting so that he can put a plan in place and start preparing for the consolidation.