Rio Rancho Public Schools Chief Operations Officer Mike Baker gave a presentation to the Sandoval County Commission last week regarding the General Obligation Bond that is on the ballot in November that would award the district $80 million for capital improvement projects.

While not part of the bond, the possibility of RRPS building a new high school came up after Baker’s presentation to the commission. The district is planning on opening the new CTE Center in spring 2025 and has plans for a new Independence High School Building in the bond.

“This year, we actually saw a drop in enrollment, which was actually forecasted. So, although our elementary school population is really flat and actually declining a little bit, our high school population is increasing incrementally,” Baker said. “And so when our short-term plan is when we open up CTE, when we open up the new Independence High School, some of the student population will be funneled from (Cleveland and Rio Rancho High Schools), so that will give us some more time in order to build that third high school. The district owns approximately 100 acres of land. That land is located on Westside and right now there’s a lot of tumbleweeds out there, not much out there.”

Baker said there is no timeline right now on the new high school and the district would need financial help from the state to get it built.

“Obviously, we need the infrastructure to get out there. In regard to when that’s going to happen, I am not too sure,” Baker said. “The biggest challenge that the district will have is when that school is built, it will likely cost somewhere north of $200 million. That is something that the district would not be able to do itself. We need state funding in order to build that but because of the other facilities, we think we have some years yet before we need to build another high school.”

District 2 Commissioner Jay Block then thanked Baker for the presentation and praised Rio Rancho Public Schools.

“I want to just throw a couple of things out there for you and say thank you to you and pass it along to the public school staff is here in Rio Rancho,” Block said. “It’s why people move here. You guys rank in the top 20% of the school districts in New Mexico. You’re highest in reading. Language arts are in the top 20% there in the state. The highest graduation rate, most diverse school, largest student body. In fact, the district has an average math proficiency score of 49% versus 25% in the state of New Mexico and reading proficiency score of 72% versus 58% statewide. And, it’s a minority enrollment, which is close to statewide at 71% compared to 79%. What do you guys do right that the state of New Mexico is not doing?”

“I think really it’s the community. I think we just have a very vibrant community,” Baker said. “In regard to Rio Rancho Public Schools, I can tell you this, we are very intentional in what we do. So when it comes to whether it be teaching, security, IT, whatever we’re doing, we’re very, very intentional. We have very specific goals and objectives, and we try to accomplish those. And I think that has a lot to do with our success.”