Las Cruces – "Fantastic. Really nice," was the reaction from LCPS Board of Education President Dr. Connie Phillips as she toured the construction of Arrowhead Park Early College High School (APECHS) on Tuesday. Along with Board members Dr. Bonnie Votaw, Maria Flores and Barbara Hall, and Superintendent Stan Rounds, the Board got a first-hand look at the new high school set to open August 1, 2011. It's located on the southwest corner of the NMSU campus within the Arrowhead Research Park.
"This school will set the standard for other early college high schools in the country and will offer so much to our students," said Rounds who also toured the 66,000 square foot facility. "Since we broke ground a year ago, the contractor has met an unprecedented timeline to get a majority of the building ready for next school year."
Mickey Clute is president of Gen Con Corporation of Las Cruces which is the project's general contractor. He said three of the school's five buildings will be ready for the August opening, which includes nine classrooms, classroom laboratories, a student commons/cafeteria, and administrative offices.
The three buildings will house about 240 students next school year. APECHS' inaugural year recently concluded with 112 freshmen whose classes were held at the Do a Ana Community College. Next school year, these students will return as sophomores, and another class of freshmen will be added. Rounds said within three years, the school should reach its final projected enrollment of 500, grades nine-through-12.
Also touring the facility on Tuesday was the board of directors of The Bridge of Southern New Mexico, a non-profit organization which was instrumental in making the school possible. The Bridge members worked with Las Cruces Public Schools to create the school, which prepares students to graduate with both a high school diploma and a two-year college degree in just four years. In 2010/2011, APECHS posted district-leading attendance rates and no students dropped out of school.
"This is exactly what we hoped for in terms of keeping students in school," said APECHS Principal Jennifer Amis. "Ninth-grade is traditionally where most high school students drop out. "We only had four students who originally began with us and left, but those four stayed in school in other communities."
Rounds said students enrolled for the APECHS summer session will continue to utilize facilities at NMSU and Do a Ana Community College, as they did last summer. When the new building opens, "the articulation with higher education will also continue," he added.
Designed by Studio D Architects of Las Cruces, the buildings include many "green" features and state-of-the-art technology with wireless Internet connections throughout the campus, officials said. A grand opening and open house for the public will be held next fall.