Although traffic issues were challenging as Rio Rancho Public Schools opened secondary buildings Aug. 5 and elementary buildings Aug. 8, the transportation woes of the past may have been lessened.

That’s because, as Human Resources Executive Director Mike Chavez told the RRPS Board of Education meeting on Aug. 8, that not only are the bus driver ranks full, there’s actually a surplus of five drivers.

And in other staffing issues, districtwide there were only five general education teaching vacancies, seven special ed teaching vacancies and zero, at least expected by Chavez by the end of the week, in the custodial ranks.

Still needed, though, are 32 special education assistants – “the area where we are struggling to find people,” he said – plus one counselor and two health assistants.

Much of the success in filling vacancies, Chavez said, was through recruiting efforts, including monthly job fairs, social media, which includes Facebook ads for teacher and bus drivers in surrounding states; an RRPS recruitment video; teacher-residency and teacher-intern programs; and a new “Device ID” campaign.

It wasn’t all good news for the board. Facilities Executive Director Melanie Archibeque outlined the potential five-year facilities master plan. Part of the planning took into consideration the population growth of the city and which schools might not meet the needs in five or 10 years – those were Vista Grande and Sandia Vista Elementary, and Cleveland High School, although Desert Pathways and Independence High School, which has been turning away potential students, also need attention.

She said a 12-person steering committee did a lot of study before outlining its recommendations and priorities: safety and security; drainage improvements (for erosion); roof replacements; ADA and restroom renovations; energy savings; and CTE development.

The district encompasses more than 728 acres, she said, and more than 2.6 million square feet of facilities were evaluated, leading to the proposed master plan.

All told, Archibeque said, that’s close to $378 million of needs, of which some can come from the state and some from voter-approved bond issues. Her budget is usually in the red, she said, with a $7.1 million deficit in last fiscal year’s $10.3 budget.

“So I’m not able to do everything (necessary) and, because of that, it’s deferred,” she explained. “(Facilities) will continue to degrade and (become) more expensive over time.”

She said with anticipated enrollment increases at Sandia Vista and Vista Grade elementaries, plus Cleveland High, it would be advisable to re-do boundaries rather than build a new school or two in the future.

As board member Gary Tripp pointed out, five of the 15 planned projects involve erosion issues.

“We have a lot of major erosion issues,” Archibeque agreed.

No surprise there, said Superintendent Sue Cleveland: “All of Rio Rancho is built on sand.”

Board members approved the five-year master plan for facilities 4-1, with Noreen Scott casting the lone “no” vote.

In other matters, the board:

  • Commended Ernest Stapleton Elementary Principal Cheryl Clark for being named the  National Association of Elementary School principals as its Elementary Distinguished Principal of the Year for the state; Clark began her career in education as a volunteer, then became a substitute teacher before achieving her college degree to become an elementary teacher, then became an ed tech before an assistant principal’s job, which ultimately led her to her current post at ESE, where she’s in her seventh year.
  • Heard a report about the 2023 general obligation bond to be put before voters, which could be $70 million; an update on $30 million of the 2019 $60 million bond is soon to be sold, and it was learned RRPS is bonded to 60 percent of its capacity.
  • OK’d a memorandum of understanding with the Boys & Girls Club of Central New Mexico to have after-school programs at Eagle Ridge, Mountain View and Lincoln middle schools. The B&G Club received a $150,000 grant and will provide trained tutors for the program at those schools; RRPS will provide the buildings, supplies and students, which board member Jessica Tyler touted as “a great service that we can provide our community and students.”

The board’s next meeting is set for Aug. 22 at 5:30 p.m. at the district offices, 500 Laser Road.