Architect for new high school chosen

Albuquerque firm has designed more than 100 schools

Blueprints for the new Montezuma-Cortez High School should start to take shape in coming weeks. After interviewing three finalists for architect, a seven-member selection committee picked Albuquerque firm Dekker/Perich/Sabatini. The new building is due to open in the summer of 2015.

As of Friday contract details were being finalized. A final agreement should be inked sometime next week.

"Each (finalist) would have built a beautiful facility," said Bob Waggoner, an Re-1 school board and selection committee member. "It was a matter of sorting through minutiae to decide which we preferred."

Superintendent Alex Carter said D/P/S' emphasis on community outreach and "under budget" price tag counted in its favor.

The firm also has offices in Las Cruces, N.M. and Amarillo, Texas.

Carter noted that D/P/S is no stranger to the education realm, having drawn up plans for 112 prior school buildings.

Last year D/P/S received a high-profile award from Engineering News-Record, a construction industry magazine and website. The company claimed first place in ENR Southwest's Best Projects contest - in the K-12 education category - for redesigning Del Norte High School in Albuquerque. Like M-CHS, the old Del Norte dated from the 1960s.

The award-winning new building has bright, airy spaces and "small learning communities where four general-purpose classrooms are clustered with a science lab, a teacher's office and student common areas," ENR wrote. Multi-purpose classrooms and abundant natural light were two desired features identified by local focus groups last month.

According to its company website, D/P/S' portfolio also includes multi-family housing complexes, fire stations, public and university libraries, churches, hospitals, and pedestrian-friendly retail mails. Almost all projects shown feature a modern, angular look with sharp edges and large windows.

The firm prizes aesthetics - indoors and out - and energy efficiency, Carter said. It is contracted to design both the M-CHS building and exterior landscaping.

The district is gradually piecing together its M-CHS design team. Last month it hired two owner's representatives, one from Durango and the other from Mancos. With the architect search now complete, the next step is choosing a general contractor who will be responsible for day-to-day oversight of the construction site, hiring subcontractors and acquiring materials.

Still up in the air is the fate of the current high school on West 7th Street. Carter said the BEST grant, which covers half the new school's cost, also allocates funds for demolishing the existing structure and restoring the land for resale. But nothing has been ruled out, he added, including an organization or business that might find the space useful.

"We'd like to divest ourselves of that property. The district can't use it. We have no need for another building that size," he said. "Maybe someone will step up with an idea."