LAPS: Board Update From Jan. 27 Meeting

LAPS School Nurses and Health Assistants were honored at the January 27 board meeting. Photo Courtesy LAPS


The Los Alamos School Board met January 27 in the School Board Room both in person and via Zoom. The meeting began with a moment of silence in remembrance of Los Alamos High School Assistant Wrestling Coach Paul Gonzales. 

School Board President Melanie Colgan then moved to Recognitions by the Board, beginning with acknowledging the tireless efforts of Los Alamos Public Schools nurses to ensure the safety, health and well-being of our staff and students. They were honored with a round of applause from those in attendance and received certificates of appreciation. LAPS school nurses and health assistants are:

Michaela Brown, Aspen Elementary

Sheila McClees, Barranca Elementary

Michele Wright, Chamisa Elementary

Amy Yost, Mountain Elementary

Elizabeth Hill and Teri Kerstiens, Piñon Elementary

Minsung Chae, Los Alamos MIddle School

Tricia Conlin and Leanne Hick, Los Alamos High School

Celia Holmes, District

President Colgan next recognized Los Alamos High School coaches Kathy Hipwood and Steven Montoya on being selected as the 2021 Girls and Boys (respectively) New Mexico Cross Country Coaches of the Year by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA). Ann Cernicek was named the 2021 Girl’s High School (West) Regional Coach of the Year for the Small Public Classification by the United Soccer Coaches.

LAHS Junior Yunseo Kim was then recognized for her selection to represent New Mexico in the United States Senate Youth Program.

Los Alamos Middle School Principal Suzanne Lynne and Assistant Principal Andy Ainsworth gave a presentation on The Hawk Way – A Day in the Life of a LAMS Student, which is the same shown during their visits with 6th grade students to introduce them to the middle school. LAMS has one core value: Be Kind. The presentation touched on what makes middle school different from elementary school, including the Hawk teams, block scheduling, homework expectations and using an agenda. The LAMS Admin team also pointed out the sports and clubs that students can participate in, as well as some of the elective choices available with the upcoming Course Selection for the 2022-2023 school year.

Board member Ellen Specter remarked that the middle school is “such a different place than it was 8 to 10 years ago,” adding that she appreciated the current emphasis on the social-emotional learning during a vulnerable transition time.

Assistant Principal Ainsworth said that the teaming has been one of the best things we’ve done so far, although it can prove challenging when developing the master schedule. When asked for a positive story stemming from the team concept, Principal Lynne shared that teams earned a field trip to Meow Wolf in Santa Fe, and were complimented by the Meow Wolf staff as being the best school they ever had on a field trip.

Vice President Christine Bernstein asked if students and staff like the new block scheduling, which is new this year and more in alignment with the high school schedule.  Principal Lynne responded that a survey would be going out to students and staff to garner feedback, but that they have gotten positive feedback so far. She said that 80% of staff wanted to move to the block schedule. 

Director of Operations Tom Castillo and Strategic Assets Coordinator Susan Odegard-Fellows next gave an overview of the LAPS district properties, including school sites and leased facilities. The School Board had asked for an accounting of properties at a previous meeting. LAPS currently has 22 lease agreements which generate over $3.5 million in leased funds. In the past, the School Board has approved funding for such projects as the Grow Your Own Teacher program and Makerspaces at school sites from leased funds.

Interim Superintendent Jennifer Guy gave a COVID Update noting that the number of positive cases has declined since the district returned from a week of remote learning. She reported that over 3,500 students have returned to in person instruction, while 62 requested to remain in remote learning through Feb. 4. She noted that 97% of staff have had two COVID vaccines, and 83% have received a booster. Over 50% of students in grades K-6 are fully vaccinated, and 86% in grades 7 – 12 are fully vaccinated. 

She also reported that the district will continue the “Test to Stay” program through the Premier Medical Group (PMG) on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and that additional K95 masks and HEPA-based air filters have been ordered. The LAPS COVID Task Force, including staff members, parents, School Board members, members of the Los Alamos County Health Council and local physicians, are meeting weekly.

Board Member Erin Green requested an action item “to discuss the COVID Task Force team but more specifically to discuss a lead person who is an expert in the field and can come and present to the board themselves on best practices, not just updates or vaccination rates, but practices that could be implemented.” This was not included in the agenda. 

The Board unanimously approved the Open Meetings Resolution. This had a first review at the previous board meeting and was brought back for a final review and vote.

The next School Board meetings will be on Tuesday, Feb. 8 and Thursday, Feb. 24 in the School Board School Room at 5:30 pm. A joint meeting of the School Board and the Los Alamos County Council will be held on Feb. 28.