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School construction offers hands-on learning

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo The new 11,244 square foot cafeteria and pre-kindergarten at Texico Municipal Schools will be ready for use when students return from the holiday break.

One Texico Municipal Schools agriculture mechanics class used construction of a new school cafeteria as a learning tool.

Ag mechanics instructor Terry Whitener said the project, part of Texico schools’ $6 million school construction program, enabled him to show his carpentry and construction class things he can’t show them in class.

“I got to show them how to use machinery to level the ground before pouring concrete and how to place rebar to reinforce it,” he said. “They got to see how to use heavy machinery to move steel beams.”

Whitener said seeing the processes in person is better than looking at a photo, reading about them or even watching a video.

“It puts it more into a real life perspective,” he said. “Until they experience it for themselves, some might never fully grasp it.”

The cafeteria is one of seven construction projects the district is working towards.

An 11,244 square foot cafeteria and pre-kindergarten classroom building and a 5,160 square foot maintenance shop will be finished first, ready for use when the students return from Christmas break.

Business Manager Cheryl Whitener said the entire project includes the new building, remodels in the elementary, junior high and high school buildings and the current cafeteria and agriculture mechanics shop.

The current cafeteria was built in the early 1960s and needed improvement, she said. The cafeteria is also smaller than Texico needs. Whitener described the growth as “slow and steady.”

Cafeteria Manager Fela Sena said the dishwasher in the cafeteria is so old the school can’t order carts for it anymore. The freezer and refrigerator are in the same condition.

The new cafeteria will include all new appliances, a bigger kitchen and more storage.

Carlos Castillo, the district’s maintenance supervisor, said he has been working out of a garage and several closets so the new maintenance workshop will make his life easier.

“It’ll be great to have more area and have it all in one place,” he said.

The maintenance building will include a bus and vehicle bay.

In the junior high building, which was built in 1975, the restrooms will be renovated to meet Americans with Disabilities Act regulations, given new flooring and the home economics room transformed into an art room.

The current cafeteria and ag mechanics building will be turned into a vocational center with areas for wood working and metals and will have 759 square feet added onto it.

The high school building’s bathrooms were renovated, the teacher workroom was renovated, a large room was split into two classroom and received new flooring.

The education complex was given more storage and new carpet in the classrooms and new flooring in the hallways.

“Every building gets something,” Whitener said. “Except the gym, which was built in 2001.”

Construction began in February.

“We really need to update some building for our students,” Superintendent R.L. Richards said. “This way we can have better programs for our kids.”

Richards said renovating the current cafeteria was going to cost so much that building a new one was more cost effective.

All of the construction projects are funded by the New Mexico Public School Facilities Authority and money raised by a bond issue passed in the fall of 2008. PSFA will pay 61 percent or $3.2 million, and the bond raised $2.8 million.

“The community takes a lot of pride to make sure our facilities are in good condition and a good environment for our students,” Richards said.