The Moriarty-Edgewood School District’s Board of Education rebuffed the town of Edgewood’s mayor and governing body, then voted to proceed with demolition of part of the old Edgewood Elementary School complex.

The school board intends to take advantage of nearly a million dollars in state funding, available on a temporary basis, to demolish a building on the Moriarty High School campus along with part of the Edgewood Elementary complex. The Edgewood building had to be vacant in order to do so, according to minutes from recent meetings.

The district moved to offer new homes to the Route 66 Arts Alliance and the Y.E.S. Program, both of which had offices in the space, according to district superintendent Teresa Salazar.

While one of Edgewood’s commissioners, Mayor Pro Tem Jerry Powers, attended the school board meeting, asking the board to table the item until after it had met with Edgewood residents about possible uses for the space, another, Mayor Audrey Jaramillo contacted the state’s Public Education Department.

That’s why the item was on the April 19 agenda, according to school board president Charles Armijo, who said the board had planned to hear the item in about a month. He said he “did try to set up something with some individuals,” including Jaramillo, adding, “Scheduling was complicated.”

He continued, “Why it ended up on [this agenda] is that we received information the mayor had reached out to PED, with sort of circumventing the process.”

Armijo said the board has been “eating, drinking and sleeping” the issue. “It’s nothing new for us, it’s been part of our conversations for quite awhile, even going back to right after school closure.

At the work session before the board meeting, a representative from the state’s Public School Facilities Authority, Sean Mussell, explained that the district has too many square feet of facilities for the number of students in the district at 644,495 square feet.

Salazar said that the number of students is half what it was in 2000, as enrollment has declined over the years.

The annual cost of upkeep of the Edgewood building is close to $30,000 a year, according to a Q&A sheet prepared by the district.

An estimate to replace the roof, which is in very bad condition, according to Mussell.

The district concluded that renovation would be more expensive than demolition, due to factors like needing to disconnect utilities, then reconnect them. In addition, the building, built in the 1970s or 80s, contains asbestos, which requires special handling in demolition or renovation.

The fields next to the complex will remain, and the north building, housing the Edgewood town offices and library, will remain.

Board member Elizabeth Howells said this: “The cost for any reservation, we’re pulling money from direct instruction to students.” She said it was fiscally responsible to demolish the buildings while the state would foot the bill, sparing local taxpayers from that cost.

“It’s very frustrating to me that Audrey Jaramillo was on this board when this decision was made five years ago, and [Edgewood commissioner] Phil Anaya used to be on the board, and they knew eventually this building would be torn down,” Howells said, adding, “I know the town wants a community center. … I want a community center. But I don’t want it on the backs of our children. … There’s [funding] sitting out there from the state legislative finance committee. I don’t understand why the town won’t apply for that money—it’s a grant. The state has even said, ‘We’ll help you write that grant.’ We even said we’ll help you write that grant for these people and have a really awesome facility, that is paid for, that’s brand new, and on the town’s property, that they own. What I got from the mayor is they’re going to put more trails in. I don’t know where to go with that.”

Armijo said that after several Edgewood residents spoke at a recent meeting, he challenged himself “to take a step back and re-evaluate everything that I understood and see if I arrive in the same place.”

On a motion by board member Albert Chavez, seconded by Howells, the board voted unanimously to proceed with the demolition.

A handful of Edgewood residents spoke out against the demolition, asking the board to table the item.

In other news, several student groups were present at the meeting, some from Moriarty FFA, some from the girls and boys wrestling teams, some from the cheer squad, and representatives of student government, to tell the school board and the community about their achievements this year, including state titles and various awards among the students.

Cheer coach Tana Chavez talking about the Moriarty Pintos cheer team, as school board members and staff look on. Photo by Leota Harriman.

A program will bring a pair of brand-new free shoes to every student at Moriarty Elementary School, valued at $25 for younger students and $65 for older children. That’s according to principal Josh McCleave.

Working with the Shoe Depot, the program will bring “brand-name, high-quality shoes to all of our students,” he said.