I say it’s about time. The decision yesterday by APS and Superintendent Winston Brooks to immediately shut down Rio Grande High School and have students bussed to Sandia High School from now on is a no-brainer. Rio has always been a disaster, was never going to be anything other than a Superfund site for education, and it’s been a waste of time trying to “save” it.
Sandia, on the other hand, is the only APS high school to “pass” its standardized test scores last year, and is surely a far, far better place for kids to learn.
Yes, I know the bus ride all the way from the South Valley to the middle of the Northeast Heights is long, and with around 2,000 previously RGHS students that’s a lot of buses.
And yes, I know that having those students attend classes held on the Sandia HS practice field isn’t the best solution. But for now, it’s the only solution until FEMA and the District can come to terms on building the many, many “portable” classrooms that will be needed.
I also really like the progressive idea of offering RGHS students the chance to “camp” at Sandia instead of taking that long bus ride back and forth each day. The agreement with REI to provide tents and camping equipment for these students to “live where they learn” is a great one, and the largess of REI is not something we want to pass up.
I also agree with the decision to terminate/fire all the Rio Grande staff and administration. They obviously can’t cut it, and would ruin Sandia’s reputation. I know it sounds weird to hire 225 folks from Sylvan Learning Center as temporary teachers, but each one of the new workers will watch a eminently proficient Sandia HS teacher for a week, taking notes while they do so. Let’s face it, these Sylvan folks can’t possibly be as bad as the Rio Grande teacher they are replacing.
So I think the outrage from everyone on this subject needs to stop. In particular the, dare I say it, racist sentiments expressed by some Sandia HS parents and nearby residents about all these “people” moving into their neighborhood. This is sickening on many levels, and doesn’t help anyone. It also overlooks some of the many positives that will come out of this “union” of Rio Grande and Sandia. These include:
- With 4,000 students, chances are the new “Sandia Grande” will have the best sports teams in the state;
- I like the new mascot “MataRavens” better than either “Matadors” or “Ravens”;
- Especially with the camping option, many of these South Valley students will have a chance to experience life in the Northeast Heights for the first time, and take advantage of the many, many cultural offerings in the Comanche & Wyoming area. As a former resident of this area, I am well aware of how exciting the many strip malls in the area can be for a newcomer;
- And, of course, the most important thing is that these previously underserved students will go from a “failing” school to one that is “passing”. And isn’t that what it’s about? Helping the kids?
I urge everyone to get past the emotion, nostalgia and fear here, and see this provocative, yet forward-thinking initiative for what it is: A great way to save these kids while we also avoid throwing millions and millions of dollars into the giant gutter known as Rio Grande High School. As a South Valley resident myself, I am proud that my District is willing to finally tackle this horrible situation once and for all. Everyone else should be proud as well.
P.S.: I’m not quite as keen on the idea of selling the land/buildings of RGHS to the County for use as an auxiliary County Jail, but it is a way to raise funds and will help the County come to grips with its terribly overcrowded existing facility. We need to remember here that no solution is perfect, whether we are residents of the South Valley or the Northeast Heights. Besides, the idea of putting some concertina wire and guard towers up at RGHS has been on the drawing board for years now..now those plans can be put into action.