A tree that stood in front of Ruth N. Bond Elementary now stands in front of the new Judy Nelson Elementary School.
The tree never moved—just the schools.
The tree, boxed in by a chain-link fence for protection from being run over by earth movers, survived the demolition of Ruth N. Bond Elementary in the fall of 2015 and the construction of Judy Nelson Elementary in 2016 on its footprint.
The gymnasium and music room were also kept, as well as large mature trees across from the front of the gym and on the playgrounds in the back of the school.
Earth-moving machines brought down tons of concrete within just yards of the tree, which was perhaps the smallest of the trees that were kept. Trucks sprayed water on the ground to keep the dust under control. Trucks carried debris, stacked in massive piles, away.
A visitor in January of 2016 would notice that the tree, still surrounded by the chain-link fence, stood nearly alone in an empty field. The demolition was finished and construction had already begun. Nearby were the saved gymnasium and music room, which formed its own stand-alone building for the first and last time.
Temperatures rose into the teens during the day. Back-to-back snow storms stopped work for a short period.
General Contractor FCI Constructors—in charge of the demolition and the construction—ran tubes with liquid heated to 90 degrees to keep the ground thawed for the foundation to be poured. Heavy blankets covered the ground.
The tree was surrounded by construction on all sides, as a new circular bus driveway was built in front of it. Cranes carried massive steel beams to form the framework of the school behind it.
A year after demolition began the new $20 million Judy Nelson Elementary School in Kirtland, New Mexico was nearly ready for the Central Consolidated School District to take possession of the building—although a custom-made facade, which included the school’s name, had not yet arrived from a sub-contractor by mid-November.
Teachers were scheduled to begin moving in December—with the District providing professional movers to do the job.
“I’m excited about going to the new building because the rooms are bigger. We are in these portables that are really small,” kindergarten teacher Kali Warner said in a Nov. 11, 2016 interview.
“We have some new technology over in the new building that’s really going to help us. It will just be nice to be out of boxes and in a room where we can just continue teaching our children. Over in the new building our new Interwrite Boards are now touch screen. So that will be exciting. … It will really advance our learning.”
Warner also likes the new whiteboards—which were built three deep and in panels that can slide back-and-forth across one wall of the room.
“In kindergarten we do a lot of writing and wiping off. It will be nice to save some of our work so we can go back and refer to it later—instead of wiping it off—and having a lot of space to do that,” she said.
Asked if she was stressed about moving, Warner said, “Not really, because we just did it last year.”
The portables were used to accommodate the additional student population from the closed Ruth N. Bond Elementary into Grace B. Wilson Elementary, which itself is scheduled to be closed once the new Judy Nelson Elementary opens. Grace B. Wilson Elementary officially changed its name to Judy Nelson Elementary in 2015.
“So a lot of my stuff is still in boxes. So I don’t have as much to pack. … It’s not as stressful because we know how it works and we’ve already had to do it once,” Warner added.
Students will begin classes in the new school—complete with new furniture—when they return from winter break Jan. 3, 2017.
“I think the students are excited about moving to the new school,” Warner said. “My son is in kindergarten. He had the opportunity to look at the new room with me one day. The look on his face when he saw the new playground is priceless.”
The community, staff, students, and School Board chose to name the school after Judy Nelson, the secretary of Grace B. Wilson Elementary School since 1967. Ms. Nelson retired in June 2016 after 50 school years. She Judy Nelson Retires 40 by 72volunteers in the front office at the school.
“You could not have picked a better name for this new school. Mrs. Nelson has been the one constant for the last 50 years in this community. She is amazing,” said Steve Carlson, principal at Grace B. Wilson Elementary, in an April 2015 interview.
“She knows our students, and she knows our students’ parents and grandparents. It’s an amazing resource and we are lucky to have that.”
See Related Story: Judy Nelson retires in June 2016 after 50 school years as secretary of Grace B. Wilson Elementary
When asked why she chose to stay at Grace B. Wilson Elementary all of these years, Ms. Nelson said in an April 2015 interview, “I got attached to the children. They are like my own little family. I worry about them and want to take care of them. This is my second home.
“I do not find this stressful. I love it. It’s kind of my calming, this job. I love the people. I think they know that.”
The school’s principal in 1967 called Ms. Nelson and asked if she would be interested in applying for the job.
“I wasn’t looking for a job when they called, and did not intend to stay very long,” Ms. Nelson said. “But it didn’t work out that way.”
Judy Nelson Elementary’s new construction is in the shape of a Y.
The entrance is on County Road 6580 past the school. There are two exits—one directly onto the U.S. Route 64 highway (a right-turn only), while the other exit is onto County Road 6575, which has left-and-right-hand turn lanes. See New Traffic Flow Map
The top of the Y are the classroom wings, with the right wing at two stories—with second and third grades on the ground floor, and the fourth, fifth, and sixth grades on the second floor. The left wing, which is a single story, is for kindergarten and first grades.
The bottom of the Y includes the cafeteria and front-office area. The first-floor area of new construction is 56,509 square feet; while the second-story floor area is 22,548 square feet.
The existing building—comprised of the gymnasium and music room saved from the demolished Ruth N. Bond Elementary—is 15,825 square feet. This existing portion of the school—which was merged with the new construction—brings an additional lower-left wing to the Y. The total square footage of the new school is 94,882 square feet.
General contractor FCI Constructors of Durango, Colorado, over excavated 5 feet, and 10 feet under the building’s footings, removing poor soil that would contract or expand causing cracks, as it did in the old foundation where Ruth N. Bond Elementary once stood. They replaced it with non-expansive soil to ensure a strong foundation.
The playgrounds, which include a new basketball court with nine hoops, a lot of futuristic playground equipment, and a grass field, are located between the upper wings of the Y.
School buses will have their own drop-off/pickup area and turnaround off of County Road 6580 at the bottom left of the Y in front of the school. The bus area and the parent parking lot face each other in the front of the school but do not meet.
Judy Nelson Elementary was designed by Dekker/Perich/Sabatini Architects, also known as DPS Design. The District paid 39 percent of the $20 million project—working through the New Mexico Public Schools Facilities Authority—while the state paid 61 percent. The general contractor was FCI Constructors.