ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The New Mexico Public School Facilities Authority and Bernalillo Public Schools officially broke ground on the new Santo Domingo Elementary/Middle School on Nov. 12. Together with students, Santo Domingo Pueblo tribal representatives and members of the of Van H. Gilbert Architect PC (VHGA) design team, the two organizations blessed the project before turning the first ceremonial shovel.
Albuquerque-based VHGA worked closely with all stakeholders — including the school faculty and the families of students who will attend the new 50,120-square-foot school — in its plan and design. Currently, the school is slated for completion in February 2017.
“It has been a privilege to work with all of the stakeholders on the design of the new school at the Santo Domingo Pueblo,” added Van H. Gilbert, FAIA, of VHGA in a statement. “The collaborative effort has produced a design that provides an effective, contemporary learning environment and, at the same time, supports the cultural education of the Pueblo students.”
When complete, the facility will include both old and new elements. It is being built on land adjacent to the existing structure and incorporates a 2005 addition, while the rest of the classroom building is scheduled for demolition, according to a statement by VHGA. Designed in the Pueblo-style and organized around an open courtyard, the school’s architecture will integrate Pueblo stories, culture, sacred views and the village design details important to the community.
“The four-sided building design accommodates a complex spatial program that includes K-5 and middle school classrooms, special classrooms for teaching the Keres language and culture, science and computer labs, rooms for art and music, a library, multipurpose cafeteria, kitchen and administrative offices,” said Alisa Giron, AIA, project architect with VHGA, in a statement. “In addition, the courtyard can be used for outdoor learning and for informal student gatherings.”
The new school will improve greatly on the existing facility, which was constructed in 1957 and had undergone some modernization work over the years. In 2012, the school qualified for Public Schools Capital Outlay Council funding to support the building of a replacement facility to serve 350 students. At that time the district contracted with Architectural Research Consultants Inc. of Albuquerque to develop education specifications and recommend the best plan of action.
ARC worked with tribal elders as well as the larger community to develop a plan that would “comply with the Pueblo’s wish to prepare children for success in a tri-cultural world, and help preserve the native culture and language,” according to the company’s website. For example, the school will offer native language programs and instruction on food, sustainable practices, and life skills that combine native and modern experiences.
ARC also noted that the district would benefit from boosting enrollment projections to 375 students and increasing the design capacity accordingly. The firm proposed four options: Build a new school; build a new school to accommodate higher enrollment; petition for additional base square footage, keep the gym and 2005 classroom wing, and include new construction; and keep the existing west wing and include new construction. The committee preferred the option to request additional space while still preserving part of the existing school.
The Bernalillo Public School District and Board of Education awarded a construction contract for the project to HB Construction of Albuquerque in October. The company has already begun site clearing and grading and will begin concrete work soon.