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Posted July 10, 2012

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July 2012: New era is on the rise at Del Norte

Read the Superintendent’s column that ran in the Albuquerque Journal July 10

Next month, high school students living in the Del Norte High attendance area will get the chance to attend classes in Albuquerque Public Schools’ newest school.

With some 149,000 square feet, about 60 new classrooms, a new library, and chorus and orchestra practice spaces, the three-story structure has many rooms with spectacular views of both the mountains and the valley. It is designed for about 1,500 students and will open in August with a projected enrollment of just over 1,200, so it has room to grow.

And, with the new building and all its amenities, it is expected to attract back many of the students who may have transferred out of the area.

The rebuilding of Del Norte High represents the most recent demonstration of the district’s commitment to schools in the older areas of Albuquerque. For many years, the focus was on building schools on the growing West Side, whose schools were overcrowded due to the rapid development of the area. The final phase of Atrisco Heritage Academy High School will open to students this fall.

Now that we’ve caught up with building in the west and southwest parts of the district, we can again provide state-of-the-art buildings to students who may have had adequate space, but whose schools lacked the flexibility to take advantage of the latest teaching and learning techniques.

While a new school is nice, it always has been and will continue to be about learning and student achievement.

Back when Del Norte opened its doors, it boasted “the largest high school library in New Mexico,” according to the brochure that was produced for its dedication and open house on Jan. 31, 1965. That brochure also featured photos of “a business education classroom equipped for typing instruction” and “a well-equipped metals shop.”

That was then, this is now.

The old Del Norte was not designed to take advantage of new educational opportunities like small learning communities, where teachers have the space to collaborate and provide more individualized attention to students. The almost 50-year-old structure did not have the capacity to handle the power needs of smart-boards, computers and other staples of modern teaching.

And, worst of all, roof leaks in the past few years had damaged not only the structure, but also the equipment. The district’s Facilities Design and Construction Department had looked at just replacing the old roof, but when they considered the cost of remodeling and repair, it made more financial sense to replace the whole building.

The new Del Norte will be built in phases. Coming this fall will be the demolition of the old classroom buildings to make room for a new parking lot, cafeteria, soccer field and arts building, which will be completed over the next two years.

Del Norte isn’t the only APS high school getting a complete makeover. Coming up is the rebuild of Sandia High School, as the district continues its commitment to provide safe, modern facilities to all students in the district.

We’re excited, students and staff are eager, and alumni in the community are ready for the next chapter in the proud history of Del Norte High.

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