SFPS, School for the Deaf Mull Land Deal for New South-side Elementary

The Santa Fe school district is negotiating to buy 15 1/2 acres near Capital High School from the New Mexico School for the Deaf for construction of a new elementary school.

An agent for the School for the Deaf was scheduled to appear before the city of Santa Fe’s Summary Committee of the Planning Commission on Thursday, Nov. 1, to seek to split a 213-acre parcel on the south end of Paseo del Sol, adjacent to Herrera Drive, to accommodate the sale. But city Land Use Director Matthew O’Reilly said Tuesday that the lot split is likely to be postponed until the committee’s next meeting due to unresolved issues.

“The property they are splitting off is going to need to be served by a road,” he said, “and staff is asking them to adjust the location of the property they want to split so that the roads line up better.”

For more than a year, the Santa Fe Public Schools has been looking for a place to build a new elementary school in the fast-growing southwest section of town that includes Tierra Contenta.

One estimate says there is permanent classroom space for only 1,626 of the 2,266 students who live in southwest Santa Fe.

“The new school is definitely a necessity,” school board President Frank Montaño said last April. “The reason we decided to create a new school is that at César Chávez Elementary, Piñon and Kearny elementary schools we have loads of [portable classroom buildings].”

The district has $19 million from general obligation bonds available for the new school.

On Tuesday, the district’s chief operations officer, Kristy Janda Wagner, confirmed that the district is negotiating with the School for the Deaf to purchase property for the new school, but she declined to discuss terms.

Shirley McDougall, asset manager for the district, said tentative plans call for building classrooms for kindergarten through fifth grades in the first phase, then for grades six, seven and eight in the second phase. The timeline for the project “keeps changing,” she added.

The New Mexico School for the Deaf was established at 1060 Cerrillos Road in 1887. By 2000, faced with overcrowded and decaying buildings, the school’s Board of Regents began looking to relocate its campus — to Albuquerque, to Los Lunas or to the acreage it had previously acquired in southwest Santa Fe near Tierra Contenta.

The regents abandoned that idea and decided to keep the campus on Cerrillos Road in 2002 after state voters endorsed educational bonds, providing money for new dormitories at the school. But in recent years, the school has worked with the New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness and The Housing Trust on a plan to use some of the southwest-side property to build a Village Safe housing complex that would have units especially designed for people with hearing difficulties.

Richard Gorman, project manager for the School for the Deaf, was not available for comment.

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