WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and U.S. Representatives Steve Pearce, Ben Ray Luján and Michelle Lujan Grisham welcomed news that four New Mexico schools have been selected by the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) for campus-wide replacement. Crystal Boarding School, Dzilth-Na-O- Dith-Hle Community School, Chi Chil’Tah-Jones Ranch Community School and Laguna Elementary will be among 10 BIE schools included in the Replacement School Construction Program. The lawmakers had requested in a February letter to the Acting Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Indian Affairs that the BIE strongly consider the N.M. schools for the program because of their poor condition.
The Bureau of Indian Affairs officials will inspect the 10 schools in the coming weeks to determine the order for replacement funding, with priority given to projects where construction can begin quickly.
"This designation is very welcome news. The New Mexico schools on the list have gone far too many years without important repairs. The buildings are crumbling and even lack appropriate, plumbing, heating and air conditioning. Children deserve the best we can provide — and they must have safe, modern school buildings that support learning," Udall said. "The federal government has a responsibility to work with our Tribes to support Native students. Investments in these schools will allow students to concentrate on learning and seeking new opportunities without being distracted by poor and unsafe conditions."
“This announcement is welcome news and is part of an ongoing effort to provide safe educational facilities for Native students," Heinrich said. "Too many BIE schools are in need of new construction and repairs, and so we must continue to work collaboratively to ensure that funds are readily available for these important projects. The federal government has a responsibility to provide students across Indian Country with a safe environment where they can learn and thrive.”
“Every child deserves an engaging classroom in a safe learning environment. Replacement of these dated and dilapidated facilities is a step in living up to this commitment and responsibility. Investing in our children’s education is an investment in our country’s future. I am pleased to hear that the Bureau of Indian Education has selected these schools for repair,” said Pearce.
“No child in New Mexico should be subjected to the deplorable conditions in schools that are falling apart, yet sadly, too many school facilities in tribal communities face serious problems. These much-needed federal funds will ensure that these schools will provide a safe and healthy environment in which to learn and grow,” Luján said. “I welcome this important effort to improve school facilities, however more must be done to fix schools across Indian Country. I support fully funding the BIE Education Construction program and included an amendment to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act that makes it an official policy that the United States will ensure that Native American children do not attend school in buildings that are dilapidated or deteriorating.”
“It’s shameful that these schools were allowed to deteriorate in the first place,” Lujan Grisham said. “I appreciate the personal involvement from Secretary Jewell who was responsive to the Congressional delegation and is making these schools a priority.”
The BIE conducted an extensive review and selection process that included an examination of all BIE schools to identify the top priority schools for replacement. Among other factors, the schools selected must have been previously deemed in poor condition by the BIE, be more than 50 years old, or use portable buildings for more than 75 percent of students.
The four New Mexico schools serve rural communities, and the poor conditions are so severe that they affect students' ability to learn. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell witnessed the poor condition of two of the schools firsthand when she visited Laguna Elementary in 2013 and Crystal Boarding School in 2014.