Elementary School Opens New Wing, Addresses Grades

Nov 12, 2012

University Hills Elementary in Las Cruces recently unveiled a new wing, much of it funded by municipal bonds. The school received a lot of attention this year when it went from an F to a B by New Mexico’s grading system.

Students at University Hills Elementary stood up to sing outside a newly finished wing at their school.

They watched as school leaders, cut a big ribbon to celebrate the day.

The building has four new classrooms and the older section of the building was renovated.

There’s also a new library. Workers at the school said it’s brighter than the old one.

“I had a very small office with just enough room for a desk and a bookshelf. Now I have this beautiful large office where I can have piles of stuff all over the place.
So far the kids have just been flabbergasted by the beauty of everything,” said Nancy Syner, librarian.

Principal Judy Foster started the renovation process several years ago by going to the city for a bond allocation. She found out the school ranked high on a list of schools with not enough classroom space per student.

“We were on the list of the top 5 in the state which qualified us for not only if we passed the bond, but also for PSFA money which is a two-thirds match with the state.”

In a little over a year since construction started, students now have a new building to enjoy.

The school has attracted attention for another reason – a dramatic rise in its overall grade. It went from an F to a B in just one year.

One year is a reasonable timeframe for raising new walls at the school.
But raising a school’s overall grade in that amount of time can be hard to believe.

The school’s principal was taken aback at the failing grade last year.

“We were really shocked at the F ourselves because all of the students worked really hard, the staff worked really hard.”

Stan Rounds, Las Cruces Public Schools Superintendent commented on the grading systems.

“The biggest flaws with any of these systems is basing as much as we do on standardized testing  in my opinion doesn’t give us the full story about student achievement and about student progress. It’s a barometric reading. It’s not as precise as it might be. You know student growth, student learning is a pretty complex engineering thing and every child is different and in schools like University Hills, there are wide challenges that teachers face everyday in every classroom,” said Rounds.

“I don’t want to make a judgment on the process of the grading system. I think accountability for education and accountability for our student’s progress is something we need,” said principal Foster.

Whatever grade University Hills Elementary deserves or whether it should be graded will continue to be explored, but students have a new library and new classrooms to be proud of.