Back to school - Union Elementary reopens

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By Mercy Lopez

Students at Union Elementary got one extra day of summer break, courtesy of the school not being fully ready for their arrival Monday morning. The West Las Vegas school site underwent a yearlong renovation that includes expanded classrooms, new paint and a revamped entrance. The district perfected the alarm system, applied fresh paint and renovated the entrance area to the west side school site.

The one-day delay allowed Monique Gonzales, 7, to enjoy an extra day with her father, Gene. But it was back to school for Gonzales, a second-grader, and the other students at Union Elementary on Tuesday.

Gonzales, who dreams of becoming a doctor, said she was excited for school to start. Her father said she really enjoys school and is happy to be getting back into the classroom.

This year will be her first year at Union Elementary. Previously, she had been attending school at Luis Armijo Elementary.

Union and Don Cecilio Elementary principal Delbert Saavedra said on Monday that he was looking forward to the students’ return.

He said district staff have been busy working to get the school in order, from moving desks to making sure the bulletin boards were ready to welcome the elementary students.

Superintendent Gene Parson said teachers have also worked many hours getting their classrooms ready by setting out books and other teaching supplies.

“We are getting ready for the school year,” Saavedra said. “It took us a little longer than we expected but we are on track.”

On Monday morning, second grade teacher Valerie Lujan was working on setting up her classroom. She had already received a visit from a student earlier that morning, and they had put all the student’s supplies in the desk — ready to go.

“I have been getting organized and getting books ready,” she said.

Saavedra said plans for the remodeling of the school included expanding the size of the windows so more natural light enters the building.

Lujan said the natural light makes a big difference in the classroom. Her second grade classroom, located on the west side of the school, is now brighter and still has the fresh paint smell.

The school also features redesigned bathrooms for students. Along the hallways are skylights that look like regular circular LED lights but are fixtures that allow sunlight in. Additionally, the lights are controlled automatically through motion sensors, which should allow the district to save on energy costs.

“The renovation is really nice, and I am looking forward to the students returning to this school,” Saavedra said.

Last school year the school was combined with Don Cecilio Elementary, just north on New Mexico Avenue. There they were really packed, but soon the staff and students will return to their refurbished facility.

Union Elementary administrative assistant Carmel May said she is happy to be back.

“It will even be a new school for second graders as they have not been in this school yet, since they attended school at Don Cecilio last year,” May said.

Franken Construction of Las Vegas refurbished the facility. The New Mexico Public Schools Facilities Authority paid for 75 percent of the renovation and the district picked up the remaining 25 percent of the $1.2 million price tag for the project.

Prior to the refurbishment the site had experienced numerous facility issues including a mold problem.