The Española School Board voted down a proposal for a new charter school that would target at-risk students and provide trade education.
The proposal, from members of the former Cariños Charter School Board, would have created a school for high school dropouts to help enter into trade careers.
Cariños Charter School was a K-8 school that closed in 2018 due to declining enrollment - during the 2013-14 school year, there were 222 students, which shrunk to 64 by August 2017. In 2016 and 2017, the school received an F on its New Mexico Public Education report card.
Board Members commented that while they supported the idea it was not the right time to open a new school given other difficulties the District had to balance.
“I think it’s a wonderful idea… but I think with this pandemic it would be too much to take in,” said Board Member Brandon Bustos. “It would be too much of a burden.”
Board members also cited the new trade program at Northern New Mexico College which begins this fall at the El Rito campus, and said that should be promoted rather than a new charter school.
The Board voted 4-0 against the proposal at an Aug. 20 meeting, with Vice President Ruben Archuleta abstaining.
Archuleta said in an interview that he abstained because of his close relationship with Father Terry Brennan, one of the writers of the proposal, who officiated his marriage and baptized his children.
The application for the charter school mentioned a “unique” mission targeting high school dropouts.
They wrote that New Mexico has the nation’s lowest high school graduation rate, and that the Española Valley has the fourth-highest dropout rate in the state.
“Our School will work with the trade unions to provide a modified apprenticeship program to high school-aged students,” the application wrote.
The application states that the goal is not graduation but rather to prepare students for careers in plumbing, pipe fitting, electrical wiring, welding and carpeting, saying “The Española Valley and Los Alamos sorely lack workers who are trained in these trades,” though it did not specify what this meant or provide numbers in support.
The School would help students pass a General Education Development exam, and would have hired trade union members and Northern professors and students as teachers for the school.
The proposal had students attend school fewer than four hours per day, and will not offer traditional activities such as sports or prom.