Golden shovels in hand, school board members, the mayor, the chairman of the Ute Mountain Utes and other local officials ceremonially broke ground on the new Montezuma-Cortez High School Saturday afternoon.
“It’s 18 months exactly from when we’ll get the keys to a brand-new high school,” said Alex Carter, superintendent of Montezuma-Cortez Re-1.
A small crowd of about 75 gathered on the muddy hill behind Wal-mart on Sligo Street to mark the occasion despite the bitter wind.
“We haven’t built a new school since 1966, so this is really exciting,” said Peter Montano, a school board member.
The $33.9 million school received A Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) grant to finance 54 percent of the construction cost. A local bond will finance the remainder of the project.
The Albuquerque-based architectural firm Dekker/Perich/Sabatini is designing the two-story 152,50-square-foot school, which will be on 35 acres.
About 650 students attend the current high school. The new school is designed to accommodate 725 students.
Mayor Dan Porter told the crowd the new school would help attract new people and businesses to Cortez because quality education and healthcare are two of the major considerations for people when they relocate.
“It’s an economic boon for the city of Cortez,” he said.
Chairman the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Manuel Heart, voiced support for the school as well and introduced the Red Sky drum ensemble. The group played an honor song for the occasion.
“Today we do this as a community for our children,” Heart said.
The senior project manager for Nunn Construction, Rick Fleming, said that shortly after Christmas, heavy equipment will be moved to the site, and the initial ground-moving work will start.