As expected, some dissension arose after members of the Rio Rancho Public Schools Board of Education heard about the preferred boundary changes for the 2020-21 school year, mainly due to the opening of the new Joe Harris Elementary in Unit 10.

Again tasked with leading the boundary-change efforts, Special Projects and District Analyst Kim Vesely described what the boundary review committee had gone through, also thanking school principals and parents who had shown up at open houses to hear potential boundary-change discussions.

Ultimately approved unanimously by the board members, all of whom were present except Jeffery Morgan, participating via speaker phone, was the recommendation for Option 2. That option moves approximately 560 students district-wide and is the least disruptive, in terms of student movement, of any of the scenarios and options developed.

This map shows the new Rio Rancho Public Schools elementary boundaries, taking into account Joe Harris Elementary, opening next school year.
Courtesy image

Vesely noted Option 2 moves about 100 fewer students than other options and is “the leanest one of all.” Of the nine options considered, she said, one would have moved almost 1,100 students.

Several parents took advantage of their three-minute allotted time during the public comment session to air their concerns. Three of them said their children didn’t want to move to another school, and one mother said in light of such a move, her daughter “wouldn’t have any friends (at the new school).”

Several parents thanked the board for its decision and the work of the boundary review committee.

“The change will be advantageous, (with) less crowding in the hallways and cafeterias and playgrounds,” Vesely said, “but we do have to move somebody.”

Fourth- and fifth-graders in the coming school year affected by boundary changes will be allowed to remain at their current schools. Siblings of current fourth-graders would not automatically be allowed to stay, but parents could apply for transfers for siblings.

Other requests for transfers would be handled pursuant to district policy and the Open Enrollment Act.

Bottom line: The primary goal of the process is to establish an attendance area for Joe Harris Elementary, while along the way relieving overcrowding Maggie Cordova Elementary (enrollment 885) and Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary (enrollment 934). With the anticipated boundary changes, most of the schools will have about 700 students, except for Joe Harris Elementary, where enrollment for the first year will be limited to 500 students.

By the numbers: 327 students would be moved out of Maggie Cordova Elementary and 135 moved in; MLK Jr. would lose 194 students; and Sandia Vista Elementary would lose 46 students, all headed to Vista Grande Elementary.

Although transfers will be accepted at most schools, they will be limited at MLK Jr. due to heating, ventilation and air-conditioning work. There, students are moving out of one wing and into the other, and then reversing that as the project moves along — similar to what happened recently at Lincoln Middle School.

School board President Amanda Galbraith said she knew first-hand about changing schools. Growing up in Rio Rancho, she had been forced to move from Puesta del Sol Elementary to Ernest Stapleton Elementary, and after reuniting with her friends at Lincoln Middle School, found herself moving from Cibola High School after her freshman year to then-new Rio Rancho High School in 1997.

Comprehensive information about the boundary changes may be viewed on the district’s website,

In other matters, the board:

• Heard Instructional Technology Executive Director Paul Romero and Happy Miller, the executive director of Research, Assessment, Data & Accountability, review a lucrative grant from the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, in which RRPS has partnered with Los Alamos Public Schools and Farmington Municipal Schools, with RRPS serving as fiscal agent for a $271,000 grant for technological services to set up servers, load assessment data and create one “visualization” per district;

• Approved recent board minutes;

• Approved a bid and contract for HVAC improvements for the cafeteria at Rio Rancho Elementary; and

• Took care of the second reading for the 300 policy series (Community Relations) and did a first reading on a handful of 400 policies (Curriculum and Instruction).

• The board’s next meeting will be at 5:30 p.m. March 9.