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A fourth middle school in Hobbs?

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Andy Brosig/News-Sun

With school enrollment in Hobbs projected to reach as much as almost 11,000 students by the 2027-28 school year, Hobbs Municipal Schools is continuing its plans to increase capacity at the district’s three middle school campuses while adding a fourth campus, probably on the north side of town.

The district Facility Assessment Community Team met at the district training center Tuesday to discuss moving forward on the project. After touring the Southern Heights Elementary construction site on the city’s south side during the day, consultant Marilyn Strube told the HMS Board of Education Tuesday evening the committee is focusing in on more specifics of what a fourth middle school in Hobbs would look like, where it would be located and how it would be configured.

“This is phase two of the project,” Strube told the board Tuesday evening. The FACT Committee members, representing cross-section of the Hobbs community, “don’t actually design a building. We start the flow of ideas and concepts that need to be included in a building.”

At the same time school officials are considering building a new middle school, they’re also talking about renovating the current Heizer Middle School on East Stanolind Road in Hobbs.

Renovation and new construction garnered the most votes in a straw pole of FACT committee members during its last meeting in October, followed by a plan that would expand and renovate Highland and Heizer while building a new Houston Middle School at a different site. Each plan carries with it a hefty price tag, though, which creates its own set of issues, HMS Superintendent Gene Strickland said at that meeting.

In the interim between that October meeting and now, FACT members and Strube have been developing educational specifications for a new middle school, she told the board Tuesday. That process involves what’s “necessary for a middle school to operate” and provide needed programing for students, Strube said.

Very early planning is projecting a new middle school in excess of 125,000 square feet, almost 20,000 square feet larger than Highland Middle School, the largest of the three existing middle school campuses in the district, Strube said. Highland is also the oldest of the three Hobbs middle schools at 87 years old, she said.

A new middle school as its being considered currently would have 51 instructional spaces, bringing middle school capacity across the district to 773 students. Enrollment in the 2027-28 school year has been projected at 604 students, Strube said. Part of the planning is to renovate all three existing schools going forward to reach those goals, she said.

Renovating the current facilities and adding a fourth middle school is projected to cost the district almost $128.75 million, according to Strube’s estimates. Moving Houston and renovating the other two schools is estimated to cost $133.5 million.

The Heizer renovation project has already received approval — and matching funds — from the state’s Public School Facility Authority. Strickland told the committee in October the district has already applied for funding for similar projects at Highland and Houston middle schools.

The PSFA share of funding new school construction across New Mexico is projected to decrease in coming years to as little as 8 percent, Strickland told the board Tuesday, leaving the district on the hook for 92 percent of the costs of new construction. But legislation on the desk of

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and awaiting her signature would put a freeze on planned decreases in school construction funding from the state and tack additional funding on to further help districts cope with facilities needs, Strickland said.

“There’s a possibility of the state’s share (of construction funding) to go up to 74 percent,” Strickland said. “That would make Hobbs Municipal Schools share about $16.9 million.”

In other business, the board:

• Approved an additional one-year extension for Strickland’s contract, through the 2025-26 school year;

• Heard enrollment reports from LaShawn Byrd, deputy director for data analysis. For the 120th “benchmark” day, district enrollment stood at 10,024 students, an increase from 10,018 students on the 80th day, Byrd said, and 143 more students than the same time last year.

• Recognized Hobbs High School junior Gabriel Palomino for winning the New Mexico State Diving Championship;

• Approved the purchase of property in the 700 block of North Marland Boulevard in Hobbs. Terry Lopez, district administrative assistant, told the News-Sun on Wednesday the district doesn’t have any firm plans currently for the property.

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